Former President George W. Bush is remembered for his efforts to combat AIDS in Africa during his time in the Oval Office, but, as it turns out, he isn’t the only Bush with a passion for global health.

It was on a trip with her father to Uganda in 2003 that Barbara Bush, the elder of the former president’s twin daughters, was shocked by the toll AIDS was taking on population and the health inequality in the country.

One of the 43rd president’s lasting legacies is his creation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which as of September of last year had supported life-saving treatment for seven point seven million people with the virus, in addition to helping provide over 56.7 million people with testing and counseling.

After graduating from Yale with a humanities degree in 2004, Barbara worked at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, where she frequently worked with kids with AIDS, before returning to the United States to try to mobilize the global health movement and get more people involved.

The end result was she and five friends creating Global Health Corps, which she became chief executive of at the age of 26. The organization gives young professionals the chance to work at the front of the fight for global health equity and places fellows in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.

According to Global Health Corps website, the goal of the organization is “to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity.” The website also says that health is a human right.

Fellows are placed with organizations, such as Partners in Health, in either of the two continents, where two fellows work together for a year. One fellow is from the host country, whereas the second is from abroad.

For example, young professionals with expertise in logistics worked to improve drug access in Tanzania by working on the supply chain. In Rwanda, architects designed medical clinics with less airflow, making it less likely that those with tuberculosis would infect others.

Today, Global Health Corps is booming, receiving praise from health professionals around the world. In addition, the organization gets around 6,000 applications a year for fewer than 150 fellows positions.

Matt Wotus

Sources: Global Health Corps, The New York Times, PEPFAR
Photo: Huffington Post

Barbara Bush Advocates for Africa - The Borgen Project
While many recognize Barbara Pierce Bush for her legacy as the child and grandchild of two United States Presidents, the Yale graduate is carving a name for herself in the global health advocacy community. Having traveled several times to Africa in her adolescence, former first lady Barbara Bush was inspired by the trips and has dedicated her post-collegiate career to helping solve the global health crises on the continent.

Upon having seen the devastation of AIDS and malaria in Africa, Bush has followed a philanthropic path to help raise awareness and treat patients. Upon noting the large demand for medicines that were easily accessible and affordable in the U.S., Bush saw an opening for young professionals to be trained and to assist others.

As the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps, Bush has mobilized a series of health professionals to address global health inequalities. In conjunction with non-governmental organizations as well as national government health departments, Global Health Corps is addressing the challenges that poverty creates in addressing some of Africa’s most preeminent health crises.

All of the Global Health Corps Fellows are under the age of 30, and Bush is investing in and training a new generation of global health advocates. In the past five years alone, nearly 500 fellows have participated in the Global Health Corps as they partnered with local medical facilities in over 12 countries.

Though there are many medically trained professionals to assist in the field, Bush sees policy making to be another field of possible improvement. Though the Global Health Corps aligns with national governments, there is still room for improvement in terms of resource allocation and public assistance. A large percentage of the fellows work in various African nations, some are allied with partner organizations in the U.S. to help influence access to healthcare and change abroad.

— Kristin Ronzi

Sources: AARP, KTEP, Global Health Corps
Photo: Kansas City Public Media