Why a Health Conference in India Is Just a Start for Duke Faculty Collaborations

December 21, 2018

Duke’s first health conference in India brought together researchers, policy makers, health care providers and entrepreneurs.

(Photo credit: Vinod Kumar)

-By Duke Global staff

Duke University just wrapped up a two-day conference on health, health policy and medical innovation in New Delhi, India, held December 13-14. Over 100 participants from dozens of partner organizations and Duke attended the conference.

What emerged from the discussions is the recognition that Duke has a multi-faceted research approach to health issues.

“What this conference gives is a synergy of efforts,” says Namrata Jha, executive director of Duke University India, an office founded last year to facilitate research, partnerships, alumni connections, student learning and other Duke activities in India. “Many Duke faculty are working in different states in India, with different partner organizations. Coming together will give them a platform to connect the dots.”

In India, state governments determine health policy and funding, and access and quality vary from place to place. Duke faculty are working with Indian partners to promote access to medical services, support innovative treatments and design assessments that can lead to improved quality for a changing population in India.

“Citizen aspirations and expectations are changing, and that affects [Indian health] policy,” says Yamini Aiyar, the president and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research, a public policy think tank in India.

An introduction to Duke's first health conference in India on Dec. 13-14, 2018. (Video by Duke Global)

Health is tied to the environment, and Duke researchers are partnering with scientists in India to focus on local efforts to monitor and control air quality, for example, developing ways to track changing conditions and increase public access to that information.

For some Duke faculty in attendance, the conference marked new connections and the beginning of longer projects with Indian partners.

“As researchers at Duke, we believe it’s important to be part of the rest of the world, to bring some of our knowledge and capacity-building to the rest of the world,” says Michael Bergin, Duke professor in the Pratt School of Engineering. “And through this, we develop friendships and collaborations that can last for life.”

Dr. Gavin Yamey, director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health based at the Duke Global Health Institute, speaks at the Duke University Health Conference in New Delhi, India. (Photo credit: Vinod Kumar)

The researchers’ collective work will not stop at India’s boundaries, as the capacity needed for true change in healthcare is beyond any one government, says Gautam Chakraborty, a senior advisor of health finance for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Innovations and ideas cross borders.

Participants discussed how health can be supported through mutual partnerships between the United States and India, with both sides learning from innovations and decisions happening on either side of the relationship.

“It’s an amazing time to be part of this collaborative approach,” says Krishna Udayakumar, associate professor of global health and medicine at the Duke Global Health Institute and the director of the Global Health Innovation Center. “Putting together solutions, affecting policy and seeing how we can actually improve health and healthcare.”


South and Southeast Asia