The winning team in Northwestern University’s 4th Annual Global Health Case Competition proposed a sustainable, long-term health plan in the form of a “birth kit” to reduce neonatal mortality in Nigeria.

Every day, nearly 2,300 Nigerian children under the age of five lose their lives. According to UNICEF, essential medical care during childbirth and the weeks following would have prevented most of these deaths.

Neonatal mortality in Nigeria constitutes a quarter of deaths among children under five. A majority of these deaths occur within the first week after birth and are caused by birth asphyxia, infection and premature birth.

On Feb. 18, 2017, Northwestern conducted its annual health case competition. For the fourth year, the university invited students to propose solutions to a 21st-century global health challenge to raise awareness and encourage innovative thinking. The 2017 competition included six teams consisting of five students each from different schools.

The 2017 case centered around neonatal mortality in Nigeria and the implementation of chlorhexidine, an inexpensive and effective antiseptic gel. Severe infection and sepsis, an immune response to bacterial infection in the bloodstream, are two of the leading causes of neonatal death in Nigeria. The students’ assignment involved integrating chlorhexidine into “Nigeria’s healthcare institutions, culture, and maternal care regime.”

The winning team’s three-year implementation plan centers around a “birth kit,” which includes the chlorhexidine gel and other materials essential for home births. The umbilical cord is a common entry point for infectious diseases, so the gel would be used to sanitize and protect mothers and their newborns. Sustainability was the team’s focal point. They proposed a partnership with a nonprofit to help cooperatively create a demand for the birth kit, then slowly normalize chlorhexidine in Nigeria’s childcare culture.

Courtney Zhu, a member of the winning team and a sophomore studying journalism and global health, said, “From this experience, I gained insight into the mechanism of tackling modern health challenges, and realized just how valuable collaboration is in a multidimensional field like global health.”

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr


Each day the Northwestern University’s International Program Development gives opportunities to underrepresented students who are usually in the premedical or engineering field. This program gives students the opportunity to partake in international study and research. While abroad, students are surrounded by other international students, offering a once in a lifetime global experience. This program also allows students to take part in fellowship opportunities, where students are allowed to conduct their own independent research projects and programs.

Northwestern University allows students to have these opportunities without the fear of financial concerns. Most of the University’s students are unable to afford this program, yet the IPD allows students to study abroad without the constant worry of finances. Students are then able to break free of the finical burdens they face, and are able to express their knowledge and talents in their field of study. This is a groundbreaking opportunity for students who cannot afford international study, and it gives each student an equal chance at a once in a lifetime opportunity.

One of the largest fields of study at Northwestern University is the Global Health Studies program. Students become immersed in the program they realize that these studies could help save millions of lives each year. This program focuses on the study of global health challenges and explores how infectious diseases spread through third world countries. Students learn the most economical way to help prevent the spread of diseases, as well as providing treatment to those who have already come into contact with the disease.

With this field of study, students are able to explore five facets of the field; these are community practice, education, policy, research, and administration. This program also helps students to understand these focal areas, and guides them to a more specific graduate program. This program helps to narrow down a student’s career path in global and public health, and leads them to a more specific area of study and research.

This program is a wonderful start for students who wish to help individuals who are suffering from illness in third world countries. This program provides a diverse population and challenges the doctors-to-be through an academic approach. This program also provides students the ability to gain experience in their field of study, while they are also providing others with international health services.

This program is offered to current students who are currently enrolled in a University and are studying in a field that can be connected to the study of global health. Due to a high demand of classes, students are unable to participate until they have reached their sophomore year. Students who are currently interested in the program should begin looking into possible areas where they can study, as well as beginning to think about research opportunities in the field of Global Health.

Students who are interested should also consider joining student groups that are affiliated with the study of Global Health. This will open up opportunities for students interested in this field of study, and may lead to students attending a Global Health Conference. Finally, students who are interested should consider volunteering for local organizations to begin to gain experience in the field before entering the IPD program.

Overall, the Northwestern University’s International Program Development offers students an important opportunity by providing them with the experience of international study. Students will gain the fundamentals in the field of Global Health and will gain experience in helping ailing individuals in third world countries. The IPD program is establishing the next leaders in Global Health, as well as the next leaders in international service.

– Grace Beal

Sources: Northwestern University International Program Development, Northwestern University, Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies

Photo: Northwestern University Global Health