2020 – Reflections and Looking Ahead

By Sophie Ward, CGHP

In this blog, Sophie reflects on the past year at CGHP and the impact the pandemic has had on programme activity. Aside from cancelled plans and overseas visits, the pandemic has encouraged CGHP to consider novel approaches in delivering programme activity. Join us in reflecting on 2020 at CGHP, celebrating our successes and exciting developments on the horizon.

Time has passed since our last blog. We have been reflecting on the past year and recognise that we are fast approaching a full 365 days of home working. Etched into our memories are CGHP members and CUH Infectious Diseases Consultants, Elinor Moore and Jamie Whitehorn, visiting our office in early 2020. They discussed the novel ‘COVID-19’ virus in Wuhan and the realities of this breaching our shores. Now almost a year on, we find ourselves home bound with no overseas travel to visit partners or incoming visitors, and an increasingly stretched NHS. 

Former CGHP long term volunteers and members of the Myanmar partnership, currently working on ICU.

It cannot be denied that global health has come to the fore in recent months. The realities of our global interdependence have been highlighted as the virus moved rapidly around the world. Through our health partnerships, our members (volunteers) and overseas partners have engaged in sharing and learning sessions online. Alongside regular partnership meetings and events, these virtual forums have provided health care professionals with opportunities to share experiences, pause and take stock.

COVID-19 Sharing and Learning with a Focus on Critical Care session between partners in Yangon and Cambridge.

For CGHP, the pandemic has marked a change in the way we approach health partnership activity. Our former attempts at contacting overseas partners using the office phone now seem almost comical. We have embraced virtual technologies, moving partnership meetings, events, conferences, and training sessions online. We have noted the improvement in engagement opportunities this offers partners and CGHP members alike. Tuning in from the comfort of your own home, office, or perhaps hospital ward, allows a greater breadth of individuals to join meetings. This ultimately leads to greater partnership engagement and equity. Through virtual events, we have been able to deliver stimulating content and high-level speakers to wide audiences, with delegates joining from across the globe. Access to such speakers and a truly international audience would have been harder to achieve at an in-person event. Such diversity leads to enhanced conversations, ideas, and output.

Following on from the Black Lives Matter Movement, we are committed to championing diversity of thought, ideas, and representation across our activities. In doing so, we have established a power, diversity, and inclusion group within our parent charity, ACT. We recognise that diversity could be enhanced within CGHP and we are taking steps to address this. Investing in gender equity and social inclusion measures have also been a priority for CGHP during 2020, and we are excited to begin embedding these across our activities.

A pivot toward virtual technologies in partnership activity also allows us to confront the realities of climate change. CGHP is committed to both global and planetary health, as we recognise the close links between climate and human wellbeing. Close consideration of the carbon footprint created by overseas travel has stimulated us to adopt a blended approach in partnership project delivery. Moving forwards and when COVID-19 permits, we will combine in-person visits with virtual engagement. We recognise that whilst virtual technologies are well suited to much partnership activity, there remains a need for in-person partnership visits. These are fundamental for relationships between partners and enable a deeper and essential understanding of respective healthcare systems and settings. Here extended overseas or UK based opportunities such as long-term volunteering or fellowships will likely become a preferred option, both in reducing our carbon footprint and in deepening health partnership relationships.  

Looking ahead, we have exciting developments on the horizon. After submitting several applications for the THET UKPHS grant scheme, we are waiting on tenterhooks to hear whether we have been successful. We will continue to invest in the development of new partnerships, including the Sierra Leone stroke project and a paediatric cancer partnership with the Uganda Cancer Institute. Alongside partnership activity, we will continue to offer a variety of online events for supporters and members and continue delivering our wider support mechanisms.

“It promises to be yet another challenging and exciting year for Cambridge Global Health Partnerships. We are really pleased and relieved, that we have been able to pivot and so continue much of our work during the ongoing pandemic. We recognise too that we have been pushed further and quicker in the direction we needed to go, and we look forward to embracing online opportunities and virtual technologies as we fulfil our mission to work in partnership to inspire and enable people to improve healthcare globally.” – Evelyn Brealey, Director

For more information on CGHP activities during 2020, please read our end of year retrospective – available here. If you are interested in supporting CGHP, please follow the donate button below or contact the team.