UW News

April 25, 2018

UW breaks ground on new Population Health building

UW News

Gabino Abarca used to spend his summers hauling 40-pound bags of apples up and down ladders in the tiny central Washington town of Mattawa.

Now, the University of Washington senior is conducting research on heat-related illnesses among agricultural workers in the Yakima Valley.

“I was now able to do fieldwork with a pen and paper instead of a ladder and bag,” Abarca told a crowd of dignitaries gathered Wednesday for the official groundbreaking of the university’s new 290,000-square-foot Population Health Building, a facility that will house the Population Health Initiative launched by the UW in 2016.

“It means a lot to me to be working on issues that affect the community I grew up in and that my parents are still a part of,” Abarca said. “It gives me a lot of pride and pleasure to be doing work that may benefit this community.”

An artist rendering of the new Population Health Building

An artist rendering of the new Population Health facilityThe Miller Hull Partnership

The Population Health Initiative is a 25-year effort to create a world where all people can live healthier and more fulfilling lives. The UW defines population health as revolving around three major pillars — human health, environmental resilience, and social and economic equity.

“Tackling the enormous challenges our world faces in supporting people in living healthier, longer, happier lives will require collaboration and a shared desire to learn and take action across disciplines and sectors,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We recognize the serious responsibility we take on in leading this effort and are deeply grateful to all the partners who join us in committing to this endeavor.”

Over the next quarter century, the Population Health Initiative will expand the UW’s ability to turn the diagnosis of patients, populations and the planet into actionable policies, reforms, interventions and innovations — similar to the work Abarca shared.

The building, which is being built on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue NE and NE Grant Place, was made possible by a transformative $210 million gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and $15 million in earmarked funding from the Legislature. The total cost of the project is estimated at $230 million.


An artist’s rendering of the new Population Health facilityThe Miller Hull Partnership

“As a proud UW grad, it’s exciting to see the university’s continued emergence as an internationally recognized center of excellence for the study of population health. The greatest challenges in global health can’t be solved without an interdisciplinary mindset; an understanding of the social, economic and environmental factors that influence health; and an end-to-end commitment to using data to establish goals, track progress and evaluate impact,” said Chris Elias, president, global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a 1990 Master of Public Health graduate from the UW School of Public Health.

As part of the initiative, the new building will create a space for interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation to better understand and improve all the factors that influence the health and well-being of populations here and across the globe. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Department of Global Health and portions of the School of Public Health all will be located in the building.

“I believe the UW is a place where I can have a real impact, work with the best talent in the field and contribute to the vision that informs the Population Health Initiative,” Abarca said.

The UW will strengthen its commitment to reducing the diseases, injuries and health disparities that detract from and shorten the lives of far too many people both locally and globally. Recognizing that factors such as air pollution and access to clean water contribute to health disparities, the UW will work toward ways to meet the challenge of environmental sustainability, particularly in those communities most likely to be harmed by climate change. And the UW will strive to address the social and economic inequities that often leave communities here and around the world mired in poverty and poor health. More information is available at uw.edu/populationhealth.

“At the University of Washington, we have long believed that our world’s most troubling problems require complex, interdisciplinary solutions. To find these answers, Population Health brings together the University’s many areas of study, expertise and research — from public health to engineering to medicine to social work to sociology and many more fields,” Provost Gerald Baldasty said. “The building will serve as a central hub that convenes faculty, students and staff from these disciplines and many others.”

The building was designed by The Miller Hull Partnership. Lease Crutcher Lewis is the general contractor. It is scheduled to be completed by 2020.



A schematic shows where on campus the Population Health facility is sited.The Miller Hull Partnership