As the world moves into the twenty-first century, the resource gap between the developing and developed countries continues to widen, with health and longevity increasing in the wealthiest countries while decreasing in the poorest. Within developed countries such as the United States, the gap between the underserved and those with adequate resources also continues to increase. Spectacular accomplishments in health—such as the eradication of smallpox and the development of antibiotics—are tainted by failures of fair distribution. Health disparities are fueled by political instability, poor governance, and fragile health systems, all made worse by conditions of poverty. One of the most important insights of economic and political development theories of the past two decades is that poor health is also a cause of poverty and political instability. It is not enough to focus only on a country’s economic development and expect health to follow; rather, health must be a core part of the strategy for economic development and political stability.

    As a top international research institution known for its broadly diversified academics and commitment to engaging social-relevant issues, the University of Michigan has established the Center for Global Health to pursue and advance solutions to global health challenges by building upon U-M’s unique array of strengths. This new multi-disciplinary university-wide initiative is focused on developing new curricular options for undergraduate and graduate students, fostering interdisciplinary research across the university and beyond, and expanding U-M’s relationships with global health scholars and practitioners worldwide to find and implement sustainable solutions to the complex health challenges our world now faces. The Center for Global Health will promote multi-disciplinary research, education, outreach, and policy studies across and beyond the University of Michigan community. Our goal is to contribute to reducing disparities in health through the generation of new knowledge, the translation of this knowledge into practical, sustainable interventions that improve health outcomes, and the education of our students as “global citizens.”

    With funding from the Provost’s Office, Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Social Work, and the Division of Kinesiology, three parallel planning efforts are currently underway: a strategic planning process to identify the university’s strengths in global health and describe areas of potential foci for the Center; an international search for a center director (chaired by Dr. Rachel Snow); and fundraising/development initiatives to secure additional funding.

    Rani Kotha, JD, MPH, deputy director of global health programs at the School of Public Health, is serving as the main staff coordinator for this initiative. For the last 10 years, Ms. Kotha has worked on public health, human rights, and international development, including four years with the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard AIDS Program, and the Harvard Program to Eliminate Health Disparities. In addition, she worked with the dean and the faculty of the International Health Department to create the Public Health Foundation of India, a collaboration between the Harvard School of Public Health, the Indian government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other public and private partners to create schools of public health in India. More recently, Ms. Kotha spent three years as a director for Oxfam America, where she promoted grassroots development and public health initiatives in Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, and southern India.