Thank You UCL
Interview with Professor Dame Anne Johnson, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London (UCL), Wellcome Trust Governor and GACD Board observer.
Professor Dame Anne Johnson has been an adviser and observer to the GACD Board since the inception of the GACD International Secretariat, in 2012 to the present day. Here she remarks upon the special relationship that GACD has built with UCL over its 5 years at the university as the GACD Secretariat moves to its new location at the Wellcome Trust.
What has been special about the UCL – GACD relationship?
The special contribution from UCL in our global health work has been the opportunity to bring a multidisciplinary university to global problems. Clearly, the root causes of many global chronic diseases lie well beyond the narrow confines of biomedicine. They involve the obesity epidemic, issues around food, nutrition practices, as well as the problems of under and over nutrition. Where we felt we could add value was to bring the UCL community to the GACD by fostering the right environment with our international links as a place for the GACD Secretariat to be born and thrive. My view is that it has thrived.
What personal observations have you made as to how the GACD has developed?
The GACD started with 6 international funding agencies involved, most of them in the northern hemisphere and it’s changed the focus of its ambitions. Now it has 14 member countries in 6 continents. We’ve moved from perhaps having a more diseases focused biomedical approach to one that embraces a broader set of disciplines and questions. So our latest call, which focuses on mental health, is again taking that broad perspective going into an area which has been chronically underfunded across the globe and one, in which there are still very varied views across the globe. So it’s also quite ambitious to do that.
I have also seen that the Board has developed an ambition to think about implementation at scale. I think that’s really exciting. So we are moving away from individual interventions to how can we work not just as empirical discovery scientists, but look at how we implement findings and engage communities and governments to try and make those changes at scale.
The GACD Secretariat has changed host institutions and moved into a new environment at the Wellcome Trust. How do you see GACD developing there?
The GACD has always been independent of UCL and the important thing is to say it will remain independent of the Wellcome Trust. What excites me is that it’s moving to the next phase. It has an increasingly important role working across a whole range of science, as well as in public engagement. It’s been a great privilege to be associated with the development and growth of the GACD since its birth. I think it’s grown to be a very happy teenager and I am sure that GACD will continue to mature and have a long and healthy life.