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Better Health Systems: Columbia Mailman Launches Research Initiative on Global Health Coverage and Quality

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Margaret Kruk, MD, MPH

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March 3, 2014—The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health is pleased to announce the launch of Better Health Systems, a research initiative to study global health systems, coverage, and quality. 

“Middle-income countries experiencing great gains in health and longevity over the last 20 years,” said Margaret E. Kruk, MD, MPH, a professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia Mailman who will lead this program. “Now that expectations for high quality care are rising—even in the poorest nations of the world—we must create the best evidence to understand how to support resilient health systems and effective universal coverage.” 

Housed within the Mailman School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, the program will develop cutting-edge scholarship focused on global and national health actors and seek to inform health policies, improve health systems, and advance the health of populations in low- and middle-income countries.

In addition to Dr. Kruk, core faculty will include Lynn P. Freedman, MPH, JD, professor of Population and Family Health, and Abdulrahman M. El-Sayed, DPhil, assistant professor of Epidemiology, both at Columbia Mailman. The program will benefit from synergies with the Mailman Global Health Initiative and other school- and university-wide centers and programs.

Rooted in the concept of equitable access to a high-quality health system, universal coverage should effectively address infectious diseases and maternal and child health as well as chronic conditions and injuries, meeting health needs across the life course, including those of youth and older adults. A key health system function is provision of financial protection from high costs of care, particularly for the poor. Universal health coverage will only improve health and reduce financial hardship if health systems deliver better preventive and curative services, and only if those services are valued and used by the population.  

Program faculty will conduct research on issues of coverage and quality and pursue implementation research on effective real-world models to improve health systems performance. This will include global comparative analysis as well as country-level work. Timely research can help guide implementation and course correction in countries pursuing universal coverage.

The program will work closely with stakeholders in global health policy—UN and other multilateral organizations, bilateral development organizations, country missions, foundations, and NGOs—to identify the evidence needed to answer policy questions and to enhance the uptake of this evidence in policies and programs. To ensure relevance of research findings, program faculty will endeavor to generate results more rapidly than the typical academic time frame. The program will also conduct targeted brief training seminars on global health topics for New York-based diplo