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Expanding Cross-Border Partnerships at the Northwest Center for Public Health

Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, chaired the Population Health symposium.

January 31, 2008

by Jack Thompson, Director, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice

Jack Thompson is the Director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health Services. He is the Principal Investigator for the Northwest Center for Public Health Preparedness Program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also Co-Principal Investigator for the Public Health Training Center supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Jack has been on the faculty of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine since November of 1994.

For the first decade or so of its existence, the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (located within the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine) defined itself in terms of the Northwest United States. Strong relationships were formed with state and local public health organizations and with tribes in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. But it wasn’t until the first Cross Border Preparedness Conference, held in Vancouver, British Columbia in April 2004, that we truly became a Northwest Center – as partnerships developed with public health researchers in British Columbia and other Northwest provinces. This conference (now in its fifth year, with a meeting scheduled for Bellingham in May 2008) gave rise to another successful cross-border collaboration – the Research Symposium, a collaboration originally between the U.W. School of Public Health and the University of British Columbia’s Department of Health Services and Epidemiology.

There have been three symposia to date and I have had the honor of coordinating each of them in collaboration with colleagues from the University of British Columbia and – this year – Simon Fraser University. The first symposium was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Fall 2005. The second was held a year later on the UW campus. The third symposium, now including Simon Fraser University, was held last January in La Conner, Washington, at a conference facility. Eighty faculty and students from the three universities attended the two-day event.

The first day was highlighted by a keynote speech from Dr. Clyde Hertzman, Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership in the College for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia that highlighted comparative health status information from British Columbia and Washington State. This led to lively discussion about the similarities in demographics of the populations but significant differences in the organization of health and health care – and in health outcomes. The second day consisted of discussions in eight break-out groups that picked up where Clyde’s remarks left off. The groups focused on Population Health, Global Health, Health Services Research, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease Control, and Indigenous Health Issues. Faculty and students from the three institutions came up with action plans for each group that hopefully will lead to further collaborations in the Northwest in the coming year. Areas of interest across the groups included collaborative approaches to student practica, the possibility of developing joint degree programs across the schools, development of common sets of health indicators that could be tracked over time, joint presentations at upcoming conferences, and collaborations on specific research projects. Summaries of the breakout discussions were presented in a closing session facilitated by Dr. King Holmes, Chair of the Global Health Department at the UW.

This has been a very rich and valuable experience for me. In the coming year the Northwest Center and our partner universities will track progress on these collaborations. As always, we will look for opportunities to incorporate such planning, discussions and expanding partnerships into our work. We are already looking forward to the Fourth Research Symposium in 2009.

The annual symposia are supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s US Department of Education, Title VI grant and by a Foreign Affairs, Canada Program Enhancement Grant.

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