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Washingon Post Story Suggests Strong Supply of Volunteers for the Proposed Global Health Corps

September 22, 2008
A story in last week's Washington Post by David Brown provides strong support to my assertion that global public health is a booming business on campuses. Last week the CGD web-site featured a Q&A with me on our proposal that the next President create a Global Health Corps as one way to expand domestic and international volunteer activities. In the Q&A, I asserted that "the United States could … [take] advantage of the extraordinary interest in the health of people in poor countries expressed by American students in college and medical school." I based my assertion on my own experience as a guest lecturer in the U.S. and in France, on observation of enthusiastic American medical students interning at AMPATH clinics in Kenya and on conversations with Michael Merson, Director of the Global Health Institute at Duke. Further evidence comes from the brisk sales of CGD's own book, Case Studies in Global Health: Millions Saved, edited by Ruth Levine, and of the newer companion textbook on global health written by Richard Skolnik. The new Washington Post story strengthens my case for a new U.S.-led Global Health Corps by showing how willing American students would be to volunteer – and by recounting the inspiring success stories of several students who have served as international health volunteers. The strong supply of volunteers means the costs of the program will be lower, since volunteers will be willing to receive a smaller stipend to participate. An open question is how the U.S. government might respond to the eagerness of American youth to serve overseas. The enthusiasm among young people for opportunities to serve overseas can also lead to stronger domestic political support for strengthening and expanding the existing Peace Corps program. The recently launched More Peace Corps campaign is an effort to support more overseas volunteerism in general. Also see the Brookings Initiative on International Volunteering and Service. But if most of the increased enthusiasm is for working on health problems overseas, as the Washington Post article suggests, and if host country demand for American health volunteers would be stronger for more highly trained health workers, then the creation of a Global Health Corps might make more sense than other ways of expanding international service opportunities.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

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