The CDC and an Interconnected World

Victoria Chi '17

When we think about the mission of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—to protect the health of Americans—we often think about addressing domestic health issues, or about coordinating emergency responses to global disease epidemics. Both of these are so vitally important. Yet in this increasingly interconnected world, equally important is the need to improve the health and well-being of people in countries across the globe, and to steadily build the public health capacity of all nations to respond to disease threats.

Over winter term 2016, I worked as an intern in the policy office of the Center for Global Health within the CDC. Throughout this internship, I watched and learned from the people who are working every day to ensure that all people have access to the most fundamental of human rights: the right to good health. I was exposed to the myriad programs and initiatives that exist to improve the health of populations and to strengthen health care systems, and I recognized that bolstering the health and capacity of countries abroad makes the entire world safer from the spread of disease.

Within this vast field of global health, I was responsible for helping my office develop its public-private partnership strategy. Public-private partnerships (PPPs), or partnerships that involve both a government agency and private for-profit companies, are increasingly important tools through which global health goals can be achieved. As global health funding is scaled back and programs transition towards greater country ownership, CDC country offices around the world have an opportunity to engage private companies, who possess a wealth of resources, knowledge, and expertise, to bolster the health programs of CDC's in-country counterparts.

Specifically, I worked on compiling a set of case studies of successful public-private partnerships that have been conducted by CDC South Africa, a CDC country office that has devoted time and resources towards developing partnerships with private entities. I first conducted a literature review of scholarship on PPPs, as well as familiarized myself with preexisting resources, materials and toolkits that government agencies have created. Next, I researched the global health landscape in South Africa, studying the health challenges in the country as well as the broader social and political context of the country. Finally, I pulled together case studies of successful PPPs in South Africa, studied these case studies for commonalities that may have contributed to their success, and wrote up recommendations for public-private partnership development that can be applied to other CDC country offices.

Through this internship, I gained a better understanding of the landscape of global health. I learned about the many different players and stakeholders in global health, from US governmental organizations like the CDC to local ministries of health abroad, and from non-profit organizations to for-profit companies that participate in public-private partnerships. While I delved into the specific field of public-private partnerships, I was also exposed to the many different dimensions of global health work that my office is involved in—from public health law to global health diplomacy to global health security—that all fit together in complex ways.

I am so grateful to have been wholeheartedly welcomed into the policy office of the CDC Center for Global Health, a fast-paced and dynamic office full of brilliant people who became my mentors and guides. I was amazed by the sheer scale of the global health work being done here that impacts so many populations across the globe. After this internship, I better understand the ways in which the CDC protects the health of all Americans and of so many people around the world, and I am incredibly grateful—and proud—to have been a small part of this immense work. Finally, I thank the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding for supporting this internship opportunity.

Victoria Chi '17 did a Global Health Internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Winter Term '16.