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MIT, HST co-host Boston-India public health symposium

MIT and HST will co-host a unique event next week that brings together leading academics, innovators and key government stakeholders from Boston and India to discuss collaborative ways of meeting the South Asian nation's public health challenges.

The Boston-India Symposium on Essential Interfaces in Public Health, which is also being hosted by Boston University, Harvard University and Tufts University, comes at a time when India is focused on revitalizing its public health education programs and building up its public health workforce.

Public health in India has steadily improved since the country gained independence 60 years ago. Life expectancy rates have doubled, the infant mortality rate has been halved and there has been a sharp drop in the prevalence of severe malnutrition. A new health care system has succeeded in eradicating smallpox and guinea worm and has dramatically reduced the number of people infected with leprosy, malaria and poliomyelitis.

Nonetheless, with India's population at more than 1.1 billion and with persistent poverty, especially in rural areas, the health care system has not been able to keep pace with the challenges. As a result, India still lags many neighboring countries in Asia with respect to a variety of measures of health. In response, India is striving to build a public health system that can emphasize prevention and population-based interventions.

By facilitating connections between U.S. academic institutions and colleagues in India, the symposium aims to promote the application of public health knowledge and help U.S. academics learn from their colleagues in India about ways to make their work more relevant to India's problems in public health.

Speakers from India and the host institutions will present talks and participate in panel discussions focused on public health research, policy, product development and management. HST Director Martha Gray will chair a session titled "The Interface of Knowledge and Product Development."

The exchange of ideas in these sessions will serve to identify opportunities for new collaborative projects between Boston- and India-based institutions that will improve public health outcomes in India.

Faculty and students from schools of public health, medicine, engineering, business, communications, government and international relations interested in advancing public health in India are invited to register, as are business and foundation leaders seeking insights into the impact of public health on development and opportunities for growth.

The symposium will take place Oct. 22 and 23 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel. Registration is free but limited to the first 150 applicants: To obtain a registration form, please e-mail or call Lindsay LeClair at 617-392-0993.

Faculty and students working on collaborative public health projects with institutions in India are encouraged to submit posters. Four poster prizes will be awarded (one per institution).

For information regarding the poster session, e-mail Heather Dawes at (include "poster session" in the subject line) or call her at 617-563-0121.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 17, 2007 (download PDF).

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