Happy #InternationalWomensDay!

A message from our section chair, Laura Altobelli

In 1909 and 1917, women organized to demand better wages, equal working conditions, and the right to vote.

In 1975, the United Nations established March 8 for the annual recognition of these struggles.

On this International Women’s Day, the tendency is to think that today celebrates women just for BEING WOMEN — instead of its true meaning….THE GLOBAL STRUGGLE FOR EQUAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN.

Today is to commemorate the hard work that has not yet ended, and to celebrate those women (and some men), past, present, and future, who push the boundaries toward empowerment of women and girls and gender equality in all aspects of life.

Today is an annual call to continue the struggle.

In international health and global development work, this is arguably the most important of our callings — to reach the 5th Sustainable Development Goal: to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,’ after which all other SDGs will be easier to reach.

Have a good day and keep up the struggle!


Achieving health equity in global health through workforce diversity

This International Women’s Day we honor the achievements of women leaders working to advance the health and well-being of people all over the world. Their path to success was certainly not easy. It was fraught with numerous challenges; challenges that are not only experienced by those of us working in global health but by women across all industries.

We are considered either too soft and feminine or too bossy and pushy to be seen as competent leaders. Our work culture lacks family-oriented, work-life balance policies which enable us to contribute to our field in significant ways. We lack female mentors to encourage us to grow and push us to overcome any obstacles we encounter in our career. We work for organizations where the people who make the big decisions on what policies and programmatic areas to focus on are men. The struggles we face trying to advance in our careers are reflected in the lack of gender equality in the global health workforce. While women make up 70% of the global health workforce, only 25% of leadership positions in global health are held by women.

We have known for a long time that when women are given equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in economic, political, and public life, everyone in society does better. Female leaders in health “promote access to contraceptives, empowerment programs for girls, women’s rights to family planning and maternity care, safe abortions, and protecting environmental assaults on children’s health.” In addition, women leaders at all levels of governance have shown to be the primary driver toward financing public goods such as health, education, hospitals, clean water, and sanitation. Women’s participation and leadership in economic, political, and public life is so critical to advancing societies that it is even written into one of the sustainable development goals. When women have a voice at all levels of decision-making, we are closer to eliminating the inequities that lead to disparities in health.

More global health organizations are recognizing the need for women leaders and organizations such as Women in Global Health are working toward achieving gender equality in global health leadership. Last year the World Health Organization’s newest Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, appointed eight women to senior leadership, effectively outnumbering the men. In doing so, he took one big leap toward achieving gender equity at the WHO – a goal that was first set in 1997 and that took two decades to realize.

Gender equality is not the only type of diversity we need to strive toward in our global health leadership however. Diversity in global health leadership must also focus on inclusion of people from different ages, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class, geography, religion, and other characteristics of personal identity.  As a woman and a first-generation Filipino-American working in global health in the United States, I often find myself at global health and public health conferences and meetings wondering why there are very few leaders that encompass the diversity that I represent on stage (and occasionally even in the audience). The people who make the decisions with the biggest impact in global health must reflect the diversity of the people we serve.  

Learning from, understanding, and seeing the world through another person’s point of view is at the heart of working in global health and a driving reason for why I chose to work in this field. In order to truly reflect the diversity of this field though, the definition of diversity itself needs to go far and beyond the characteristics of one’s personal identity. To fully be inclusive, we must also be open to learning from, understanding, and seeing the world through the perspectives of individuals in the global health workforce with diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and competencies. Our field could benefit from the ideas of diverse individuals in solving some of the world’s most pressing global health problems. These ideas cannot always come out of our own echo chambers. 

Achieving diversity in the global health workforce is everyone’s job. It requires each one of us to recognize and overcome the personal biases (whether they are subconscious or not) which prevent us from hiring and working with more diverse talent. For those of us responsible for making decisions, we must work to create policies at all levels which not only promote but require inclusion. It’s only then that we can achieve true diversity in our workforce and our leadership. It’s only then that we can progress further in achieving health equity.

Stay tuned for part two of my series on Achieving health equity in global health through workforce diversity in which I will discuss different ideas for how we can achieve diversity in the global health workforce.

Action Alert: Call your senators today and urge them to lift the ban on CDC research on gun violence

Sent on behalf of Paul Freeman, IH Section, Action Board

In 2016, the scientific community labeled gun violence a public health crisis and called for a greater public health response including federal research. We desperately need action on gun violence and prevention, but evidence-based decisions can’t be made because of an anti-science ban on research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Call your senators today and urge them to lift the ban on CDC research on gun violence.

Congress is working right now to put the finishing touches on its spending bill, which means that now is the perfect time to ask your senators to lift the ban on gun violence research at the CDC.
Call 855-589-5698 to reach the Capital switchboard and Press 1 to connect to your Senators. Dial in again and Press 2 to connect to your Representative.
Example Script

Hi, my name is ______, and I’m calling from [town/city]. 

I’m calling to express my strong opposition to the budget rider that bans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence. 

With deaths and injuries mounting from gun violence in our schools and communities, we need the federal government to study this problem and offer effective, evidence-based solutions to this crisis.

Putting our public dollars behind this problem is critical – we cannot continue to offer only thoughts and prayers, we must act. 

I urge [Senator X] to remove the anti-science rider that prevents the CDC from conducting research on gun violence from the spending bill. 

Thank you for your time.

IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S. Guns kill almost 30,000 people and cause 60,000 injuries each year. As a longtime advocate for violence prevention policies, APHA recognizes a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis is necessary.

The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe. We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research. Ongoing work is needed to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands and to expand access to mental health services to those who need it most.

If you are interested in a sample op-ed, letter to the editor or technical support to help reach your local media, please contact APHA Media Relations.

Visit APHA’s website to learn more about this issue and how you can take action.

Did you know condoms are considered immoral in some countries?

Condoms have been around since 1855. Crazy, right? Not so long ago, one of the main purposes of condoms was to protect soldiers in World War II against STI’s. Not a lot of things have changed since then. There’s actually more and more reasons now why condoms are useful- it is accessible, it does not have side effects, it lowers risk of STI’s and HIV, and does not change the menstrual cycle like birth control does. That being said, there are several countries in the world that believe condoms and contraceptives are immoral. The below countries and its leaders blast condom use as dangerous. Their anti-condom rhetoric is bringing down youth and many others and could ultimately hurt the world. Continue reading “Did you know condoms are considered immoral in some countries?”

Event Invitation: Taking the Pulse of the Expanded Mexico City Policy, 10/19

Posted on behalf of Laura Altobelli, IH Section Chair

Here is an opportunity to hear early research findings on application of Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule on reproductive health as well as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in 7 countries.


The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) in cooperation with Senator Blumenthal and Senator Shaheen

We invite you to a briefing:

Taking the Pulse of the Expanded Mexico City Policy


2:30 PM – 4:00 PM


First St NE, Washington, D.C. 20515

Refreshments served. Space is limited. RSVP to Annerieke Smaak (asmaak@genderhealth.org).

The Trump Administration’s “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy, also known as the global gag rule, is currently due for a six-month review. This expansion and re-branding of the “Mexico City Policy” encompasses all global health assistance, including funds to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Expert speakers will share new research findings on the early impacts of this policy in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. They will also shed light on how previous versions of the policy relate to abortion rates, maternal mortality, and other areas of global health.


Bergen Cooper, Director of Policy Research, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Vanessa Rios, Program Officer, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)

Skye Wheeler, Emergencies Researcher, Women’s Rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Moderator – Nina Besser Doorley, Senior Program Officer, IWHC