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Yale Team Takes Second Place in International Health Competition

When it comes to global health acumen, a group of Yale students has few peers.

Interrupting their Spring Breaks, the six students traveled to Emory University in Georgia late last week to compete in the 2013 International Emory Global Health Case Competition. The teams had only days to formulate a detailed response to an identical health challenge before making presentations on Saturday, March 23.

An expert panel of nine judges awarded Yale second place, narrowly behind Johns Hopkins University, but ahead of 22 other teams from around the United States, Mexico, Singapore and Canada. It is only the second time that Yale has competed. Last year’s team did not make it to the final rounds.

“We were up against many talented and hardworking teams, so we knew we had to be at our best,” said Ryan Boyko, a doctoral student at the Yale School of Public Health student and a member of the team. “All in all, I'm very happy with our performance and really enjoyed the experience!”

The fifth annual competition at Emory posited that China was the world’s economic superpower in the near future and that its foreign policy emphasized global health, with sanitation efforts as a top priority.

The 24 teams were tasked with the same challenge: develop a sanitation strategy that improves global health and also maximizes China’s returns. Teams had only five days to prepare their response. For the Yale students, scattered around the world on Spring Break (members were in Mexico, South Africa, the Middle East and the United States), it meant hastily arranged strategy sessions on Skype, an all-nighter at Emory just before the presentation and the creation of a 69-page PowerPoint presentation complete with detailed graphics and a lengthy appendix. 

In addition to Boyko, Yale’s team consisted of Javier Cepeda (YSPH), Hilary Rogers (Yale College/YSPH), Bingnan Zhang (YSM/SOM), Jordan Sloshower (YSM) and Yi Zhou (SOM). The Yale team, which won a university-wide competition in November that included a $3,000 prize and the chance to represent Yale at Emory’s competition. 

Yale’s team approached the challenge by breaking it down and assigning different tasks that were suited to specific team members. They selected countries to invest in, came up with budgets and funding mechanisms and then devised an intervention, which consisted of formative research, implementation of community-led sanitation and sanitation marketing through partnerships with non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations. The team’s approach also included participatory monitoring and evaluation/scale-up of construction of latrines and ecological sanitation infrastructure, risks and limitations of proposal and the expected benefits to China. 

“The problem is very complex,” said Rogers. “To have only five days is a very short amount of time. It’s a lot to think about. But our team works so well together, and especially for this particular case, because we're so interdisciplinary. And we still managed to have fun together while working on such a complex issue. 

Boyko also created a rigorous methodology to select the countries for China's investment, something that few other teams did and which set Yale’s presentation apart.

Yale’s competition last year drew 20 student teams (comprised of some 100 students) from across the university to the School of Public Health where they addressed the economic, social and health problems faced by miners in South Africa as part of the university’s inaugural Global Health Case Competition

Teams then also had less than a week to research and formulate their responses before giving a presentation to a panel of 20 judges drawn from university faculty as well as public health practitioners and consultants.

Student interest in global health has grown sharply at Yale, and the university has responded with a variety of programs and initiatives to meet the demand. The School of Public Health, for example, offers a Global Health Concentration, and the university has created the Yale Global Health Initiative (GHI) and the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI), among many other programs.

“We couldn't have done it without our faculty advisors, and what we’ve learned in classes and global health experiences,” Rogers said. “I think it's a sign of more great things to come in Yale's global health program.”


This Article was submitted by Denise L Meyer, on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.