UoM team places second in Emory Global Health Case Competition

On Saturday 14 March the University of Melbourne’s Emory Global Health Case Competition (GHCC) team placed second at this year’s prestigious international competition in Atlanta, Georgia.

The team of six graduate students, who were selected as part of an intramural competition held last year coordinated by Prof Phil Batterham, headed to Emory University in Atlanta to compete with students from universities across the world.

L–R: Mentor, Associate Professor Nathan Grills and the team, Stefan Joksic (Master of International Relations); Hayden Burch (Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health); Olivia Baenziger (Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health); Julia Zhu (Master of Education); Hannah Morgan (Master of Public Health); and Travis Lines (Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health).

The competition ran from 13–14 March 2020 with 30 teams competing. UoM were out to defend their title having won the competition for the first time in 2019.

The GHCC presents interdisciplinary teams of students with a significant global health challenge that they must develop and present an innovative solution to. This year, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, the teams were presented with a hypothetical epidemic case on the global eradication of measles. Each team picked one of five countries – India, Madagascar, Nigeria, Syria or Ukraine – to focus on.

“As a team we elected to address measles elimination in Ukraine,” said Hayden Burch. “We performed a dual-risk analysis and a current mitigation and effectiveness analysis, consulting both literature and Ukrainian experts, such as the previous Federal Deputy Health Minister for Ukraine, to generate our solution.”

For their final presentation titled ‘Government Policies and Effective Initiatives for the Eradication of Measles in Ukraine’, the team came up with two strategies to respond to the hypothetical outbreaks. “Our first solution was to undertake a unified messaging campaign, with sports stars as the centrepiece of the government, NGO, private sector and community engaged campaign. Our second solution was two roll out mobile catch-up vaccination vans to vaccinate high risk populations,” said Hayden.

Each team was required to create a five-year timeline, taking into account the socioeconomic status, healthcare systems, and cultural practices of their individual countries when formulating their proposals.

On the unnerving timing of experiencing a real global pandemic while responding to this case, Julia Zhu shares, “Working on a hypothetical epidemic in a real pandemic situation provides a surreal and simultaneous background for a critical, innovative, and research-based public health initiative. This made the learning process unpredictable and challenging but meaningful and relevant.”

“One of the most rewarding parts of the experience was being able to meet other teams and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” says Olivia Baenziger.

Hayden adds, “[CDC] directors and chief medical officers [were] having water cooler conversations with us during the competition week”.

“I personally would recommend [the competition] to anyone who is up for the challenge this experience brings,” says Julia.

On their win, Hayden says: “For me, the highlight of the week was leading a mature, selfless and respectful team to achieve a great result for ourselves, academic mentor Nathan Grills, University of Melbourne and as representatives for Australia.”

Congratulations to the team and all involved. See their journey on Facebook and look out for the next intramural competition.