Meet Tammam Aloudat, the new Managing Director of the Global Health Centre
In the past two decades, you have worked with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Médecins Sans Frontières to advance access to medicines and outbreak management. What motivated you to join the global health and humanitarian field?
After graduating from medical school in Syria, my ambition was to become an orthopaedic surgeon but a volunteer experience at the Syrian Red Crescent led me to the global health field. At the time, I thought that medical care and surgical practice was the best way to impact people’s health and well being, but this first experience in the humanitarian sector introduced me to the social, economic and political factors that affect the right to health. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support hospitals and health programmes, and witnessed how global governance affects our direct response to crises, conflicts, natural disasters and displacement. It encouraged me to study public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and to actively engage in project management, policy development, advocacy, and research in several health areas. Joining the Global Health Centre and the Graduate Institute is a tremendous opportunity to advance issues of global health justice and equity, and ensure that no one is left behind.
The Global Health Centre recently appointed you as Managing Director to expand its activities and implement its new ‘Open Global Health’ strategy. What will be your role at the Institute?
I have been following the activities of the Global Health Centre for a few years, and I am thrilled to join the Centre and promote its mission on the global health scene. As a reputable academic institution, the GHC holds a privileged position, and can inform, train and guide decision-makers towards fairer global health policies at the national and global level. As Managing Director, I will support the implementation of the new strategy of the Centre that aims to open up global health governance to diverse actors, knowledge and ideas. Now more than ever, we need to use our influence to open the space for new and unheard voices in the global health arena to effectively address today’s challenges. One of my missions will also focus on the development of the International Geneva Global Health Platform, and encourage synergies between organisations, researchers, and advocates in Geneva and beyond. We also seek to act as an enabling hub for diverse groups, and welcome perspectives and practitioners who do not usually interact with the global health circle. My role consists of managing the Centre’s activities, strengthening its actions, and supporting the leadership and the development of the team.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of health in the global/political agendas of world leaders. How would you describe the most pressing health challenges that the world needs to address in the upcoming years?
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed several major gaps in global governance, and showed us that the world is not sufficiently prepared to respond to outbreaks. How do we prepare and respond to pandemics? How can an outbreak affect different layers and areas of society, gender equality or sexual violence? What are the politics that surround our response to crises and what can we learn from past pandemics? All these questions are critical, and need to be urgently addressed. The impact of digital technologies and artificial intelligence on the health sector and on people’s well being also pose serious opportunities and questions. The global health field is being shaped by the rapid growth of digital technologies and, at the Global Health Centre, our mission is also to identify these challenges and rapidly adapt our activities to potential future risks. Our 2020-2024 strategy underlines a multitude of areas that need immediate attention such as global access to medicines, the influence of financialisation on the development and pricing of pharmaceuticals, and the reproductive health of displaced populations.
I have been particularly engaged in the ‘decolonising’ dimension of global health in the past years, and I strongly believe that we need to use this as an additional critical lens to examine all our current challenges. ‘Decolonisation’ has been adopted as an umbrella term for multiple actions but what lies beneath the word is the recognition of an unequal distribution of power and influence within global health governance: between North and South, rich and poor, international organisations and local actors. Unfortunately, the hierarchies created by colonial empires continue to cast a shadow of power imbalance in the world. We cannot address global health issues without acknowledging the power asymmetries that our health systems, measures, and institutions inherited from colonialism. To fully understand and respond to the current Covid-19 vaccine apartheid, the consequences of the climate crisis or forced displacement, we must recognise economic, geographic and political powers. I am very excited to join an organisation that not only tackles the biggest struggles of our time but also promotes greater transparency and accountability in the global health field.