Population Health

October 16, 2020

Panel envisions how to create a “better normal” post-pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the racial, social and economic inequities that shape the health and well-being of all people in the United States and throughout the world. It also provides the opportunity to re-imagine a post-COVID-19 world in which we are all healthier — as individuals and entire populations. To mark the completion of the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health, the UW Population Health Initiative and the Graduate School Office of Public Lectures convened a panel of experts for a discussion moderated by Hanson Hosein that envisioned how to create a healthier, more equitable world.

Mental health is a vital element of overall health, and Professor Pamela Collins, with the departments of Global Health and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, discussed how racism and other inequities have major impacts on well-being. The environment we inhabit also plays a vital role in our health, and Renée Cheng, dean of the College of Built Environments, outlined the often hidden impacts of our built environments and the choices in design and construction that can be made to improve health and reduce inequities. Meanwhile, Professor Cecilia Bitz, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, discussed how humans are changing the climate in ways that will narrow the parts of the planet that are habitable.

Joining the discussion, Toni Hoover, who directs strategy planning and management in the Global Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, referred to the need for strong partnerships between universities, foundations and communities, and how one of those partnerships – between the Gates Foundation and the University of Washington – quickly sprung into action to address the pandemic. And Julio Frenk, president of the University of Miami and the former health minister of Mexico, discussed the leadership role universities have in the current pandemic, as well as his optimism in our collective ability to overcome it and future challenges – including by having faith in young people. Frenk is also the chair of the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s board.