Category Archives: GHD News

Blog: Gender-related association between socioeconomic status and obesity: Is East Asia different from the West? By Xiwen Qian

The gender-related association between socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity is different among regions with different culture and developmental level. Studies are consistent that women with higher income or educational level are less likely to become obese, whether in East Asian or Western countries. Whereas for men, the association is mostly found opposite in East Asia, such as some areas in China and Japan and South Korea, but mostly non-significant in the Western countries like USA, European countries and some developed areas in Brazil. One distinction between East and West is that most East Asian countries are patriarchal societies and most Western regions are developed countries.

In patriarchal societies like China and Japan, women’s value lies more in appearance, body image and reproduction, while men’s value lies in earning money and obtaining power. Sometimes a larger body size for men is likely to be valued as a sign of dominance, power and wealth. Social values tend to impose higher costs for obesity on women both in the labor and marriage markets than on men.

In Western societies, especially in developed regions like Europe and USA, with the development of feminism, social values and cultural norms gradually treat men and women equally. (Yet still, women pay more attention to appearance than men do.) Therefore, in terms of the relationship between SES and obesity, the difference between men and women in Western countries is not as big as that in East Asian countries.

High developmental level promises high degree of gender equality. The gender-related socioeconomic influence on obesity will change with human and cultural development. The effect of SES on obesity in men in East Asia will probably transit from positive to none or even negative, while in women the correlation would remain the same.

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News: Kicking off the Nordic Network for Global Health Education by Miia Halonen and Annariina Koivu

The Global Health and Development team visited Bergen 12-13.12. 2017 for the first meeting of Nordic collaboration for global health education. The partner universities in this Nordic network, which aims to develop Nordic global health education, are the University of Bergen, University of Tromsø, University of Copenhagen, University of Iceland, University of Umeå, and University of Tampere.

The partner universities’ diverse Masters’ programmes’ strengths and focus areas were identified through discussions and presentations by each institution. The educational programmes’ variety of contents and structures provides a stimulating starting point for improving the quality and multidisciplinarity of Nordic global health education.

Participants in Bergen. Bente Moen, Geir Gunnlaugsson, Annariina Koivu, Oluf Gudny Geirsdottir, Miia Halonen, Klas-Göran Sahlen, Ingvild Hope, Karen Marie Moland, Astrid Blystad, Emil Mølgaard Morell, Linda Forshaw & Erik Eik Anda.

This collaboration stems from an international global health workshop at Rymättylä, Finland in 2016, which attracted participants from 10 Nordic institutions. The collaboration will continue in the next meeting, which will be held in Tampere in April 2018.

News: Visiting professor Dr Anuj Kapilashrami´s interview on Radio Moreeni about People’s Health Movement by Miia Halonen

Global Health and Development had an honor to organize People’s Health Movement workshop by Dr. Anuj Kapilashrami on 24 October 2017 for the students and staff in UTA who are interested in global and public health issues. Guest professor of Social Sciences Dr. Kapilashrami is an active member of the steering group of the UK People’s Health Movement and convener for the Scotland group. Larissa Bister from Radio Moreeni interviewed Dr. Kapilashrami about the People´s Health Movement. To learn about the role of People’s Health Movement in global health arena listen the interview here:

Is it time for Finland to join the People´s Health Movement?

People’s Health Movement publishes the Global Health Watch – the alternative World Health Report


News: Global Health Case Challenge 2017 – Meet the Team! By Lynda Gilby, Ulla Laitinen, Giovanna Sanchez Nieminen, Mariette Hägglund, and Annariina Koivu

Photo: Jonne Renvall, University of Tampere

The University of Tampere is sending 5 students, across various disciplines, to compete in the Global Health Case Challenge is Copenhagen next month. The topic of the challenge is the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Migrant Women. A question related to this topic will be presented on arrival and teams will have 24 hours to come up with and present a solution to the panel. Each participant has a diverse background presenting an interdisciplinary approach to the challenge.

From the Master’s in Public and Global Health, Ulla has previously studied both Public Health Nursing and Midwifery. She worked for THL as a research nurse on large scale public health studies. One of those studies included the health implications of stress on pregnant women and how this can affect the child throughout their development. Lynda has a background working in large trauma centers and small rural hospitals in across New Zealand, England and Scotland. She has a strong interest in researching gender based violence and barriers to women’s full and equal participation in society. Currently undertaking her PhD, we have Kalpana, who is studying the reproductive health of migrant women. She has worked as a research assistant and been involved in multiple publications related to women’s health and has a strong academic background in public health.

From the Master’s in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research program, Giovanna Sanchez has experience researching human right’s issues at borders, and how we can reduce discrimination and protect human rights, especially those of migrants and vulnerable minorities. She participated in the Bill Clinton Hult Prize challenge on how to decrease human disease in urban slums. She is currently doing her thesis around the human factor of border control with the Bodega Project. From the same program we have Mariette, who interned with the Permanent Mission of Finland at the UN in Geneva, with a focus on human rights and global health. She has worked in Iraq with refugee women, learning about their experiences living under ISIS control and hearing their personal stories.

The winning team will meet with the UNFPA at their office in Copenhagen to pitch their solution, and with the EIT Health Accelerator program which can provide assistance and funding to get new programs off the ground.

– This opportunity stems from our collaboration within a partnership among Nordic universities, explains Dr. Annariina Koivu from Global Health and Development (GHD). The partnership for Global Health Case Challenges was a formed in 2017 with the aim of strengthening the field of global health education in the Nordic region by offering new ways of learning and teaching through using the innovative pedagogic approach of case challenges. Besides the University of Copenhagen, the host of the current as well as two successful case challenges, the partnership includes Karolinska Institutet, Lund and Uppsala University in Sweden, universities of Oslo and Bergen in Norway and the University of Tampere in Finland.

– We are excited, as this opportunity could be the first step in the path towards an exciting and rewarding career for the students.

Prof Anneli Milen (GHD) continues: This is a prime example of international collaboration that has the focus on action and activities. This is an excellent opportunity to compete on a serious, real world issue.

News: Public and global health students visit Finnish Red Cross logistics centre by Virpi Teinilä and Ella Näsi

Photos: Davaa Baasan

Finnish Red Cross logistics centre is situated in Tampere and it maintains domestic and international ability to help. Organizing international aid requires special knowledge and skills in the areas of material supply, logistics, procurement, technology and health care. Virpi Teinilä, who studies Public and Global Health at the University of Tampere, is one of the health care professionals working for the Finnish Red Cross. She invited her classmates to visit the logistics centre to hear how Red Cross responds to global health challenges and supports communities who face disasters.

Students of public and global health will be equipped with necessary expertise, skills and tools to work in complex emerging public and global health challenges. During their visit to the logistics centre, many examples from recent deployments were given on how this expertise will be needed in the case of natural disasters, conflicts, epidemics and migration. Understanding of health systems, health promotion, epidemiology and climate change are all knowledge areas that Red Cross requires from their international delegates, for example in the role of public health coordinator. The importance of cross sectoral knowledge and understanding global dynamics influencing health were also mentioned in the presentation.

The Finnish Red Cross logistics centre has a showroom with some parts of their field hospital on display. There are also posters with pictures from previous deployments. The PGH students felt that it was very useful to get a comprehensive tour through the logistic centre. Virpi Teinilä explained the principles that guide the co-operation of the different national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She also provided her fellow students with concrete real-life stories from Haiti, Sierra Leone and other places where Finnish Red Cross has been providing material and professional help.

Finnish Red Cross is known for its strong health care professionals and its ability to send experts in many fields together with material, such as an emergency clinic or a hospital to provide health care to disaster affected communities. At the moment there is an emergency hospital opening in Bangladesh due to a migration crisis. This material and personnel were deployed from Finland together with Norwegian Red Cross. These real case examples will be discussed in the future PGH courses, such as migration and health and health care in disasters.


News: GHD attends the Research Symposium on Mediterranean by Miia Halonen

Get-together of the Symposium

Mediterranee Research symposium on Mediterranean region was organized September 18th in the University of Tampere in purpose to bring together the various research and education activities in Tampere related to the Mediterranean region. Rector Liisa Laakso opened the symposium emphasizing the role of international co-operation in the University’s development.

Director of UNIMED (Mediterranean Universities Union) Dr. Marcello Scalisi gave a key note concentrating on international mobility, networking and co-operation. Scalisi noted that the importance of intercultural networking have been recognized by the EU, as well as both shores of the Mediterranean. He highlighted the role of student mobility and contributions to the modernization and internationalization of higher education. The importance of student mobility and collaboration was echoed in the reflections by the Ambassador of Algeria, H.E. Ms Nawel Settouti and the Kingdom of Morocco H.E Mohammed Ariad.

From the GHD students’ point of view, UNIMED themes relating to migration, sustainable tourism, cultural heritage and food and water systems are interesting research areas. The needs of refugees and migrants constitute a relevant topic also for Global Health and Development researchers and students.

During the day, short presentations were given covering various disciplines. History and its relevance to current research in the Mediterranean region was given a great significance. The day ended with discussion of ways to facilitate and reinforce the Mediterranean University co-operation. The Mediterranean region will be increasingly interesting area for research, but the possibilities are not limited to that. Marco di Donato from UNIMED pointed out that international mobility could improve employment opportunities in the Mediterranean area and he encouraged young people to seek innovative ways to employ themselves in the Mediterranean. The Symposium was innovative and participants shared the spirit of optimisms, as well as the notion of shared responsibility, which is also one of the key values of the University of Tampere.

Blog: UTA is strong in development research by Mikko Perkiö

Picture: Leena Wilkman. Global sociology by professors Ali Qadir and Risto Heiskala. Mikko Perkiö as a panel chair.

We have much more development research at the University of Tampere (UTA) than we tend to think. In our university, development research is not a separate subject, such as Development Studies is in the University of Helsinki, while in UTA, the studies on global development are integrated into several subjects such as education, governance, and even into ICT. Many strong research groups bring a global development perspective to their field. This became evident when the UTA development researchers presented their research in Tampere in April in a seminar featuring leading researchers and experts from twenty European and African countries. During the event, the European Development Research Organization (EADI) held its Executive Committee meeting.

The seminar theme was Global Governance and Responsibility and it was discussed from the perspectives of global sociology, education, innovation and social security. The working groups focused on conflicts and human rights, migration, environment and development relationship, and conditions of global well-being.

In the globally oriented research groups at the University of Tampere, we have a great opportunity to increase our joint efforts and joint applications. There is evidence that consortia beyond the disciplines and sector boundaries produce new information – this successful event proved it.

Blog: TRANSFORM African social protection

Enthusiastic dialogues Photo: Timo Voipio

An ambitious multipartner effort is turning into results in Tanzania where the 1st ever TRANSFORM training was held. The training package supports policy makers and practitioners who design and implement social protection systems in African countries. The EU-SPS programme unit coordinated by THL (National Institute for Health and Wellbeing), particularly Dr. Timo Voipio, has played profound role in bringing multistakeholder forces together, which has enabled this major step forward. The partner portfolio includes professionals from ILO, UNICEF, UNDP and regional expert networks such as SASPEN. Also UTA’s Global Health and Development (GHD) team partners the EU-SPS in building and researching such higher education which could produce solid expertise on social protection in Africa. Dr. Mikko Perkiö, GHD, participated the 5-day training in Dar El Salaam as an observer.

The 5-day course pulled to classroom 25 Tanzanian managers and coordinators who are in charge of social protection in key ministries or in implementing bodies such TASAF, a social assistance programme with over 7 million beneficiaries. Next courses will be Training of trainers and tailor-made versions utilizing the feedback from the pilot course. In future, courses aim to attract participants from many African nations. Furthermore, the African Union (AU) thinks that launching a TRANSFORM course on-line in 2017 is a feasible top priority, which may be contrasted to the AU’s more distant dream to build a railway across the continent from Cairo to Cape Town.

Microsimulation helps governmental decision making Photo: Timo Voipio


Blog: Brain Gain in Somalia By Anneli Milén & Paula Salo

An exciting development co-operation instrument is being applied by the Finnish government.  First and second generation Somali diaspora health professionals trained in Finland or in other Western countries are facilitated to return for 6-24 months to transfer knowledge and skills to local health workers in hospitals, ministries of health, and training institutes around Somalia.

Returnees are ready to sacrifice a lot as they are highly motivated to “help our land”.  But… Are the local health workers so ready to be trained by the ones who had a chance to leave in difficult times?  How could knowledge and skills actually be transferred from one expert to another?  These are traditional questions when Western expatriates have been sent to Africa.  It is any easier and more successful when a trainer and trainee share the culture and language? Or is their culture the same? How about mechanisms required to support learning, such as human resource management?

We started to ask more questions and ended up beginning a study to find out some answers with the ultimate aim to find ways to enhance brain gain in Somalia. Our study aims to shed light on how temporary return of diaspora health professionals can be used as a development modality that has a convincing positive influence on strengthening health systems through skills and knowledge transfer. In December 2016, we travelled to Hargeisa in the north-western part of Somalia, to carry out interviews.


All images © Salo, Milen 2017

In December, when our plane was landing to Hargeisa, the vast dryness was the first thing one could see. Sand everywhere, no trees or water were visible to a human eye. The view from the plane was truly astounding. By now, one could realize that drought is a severe issue challenging all life in this environment. Despite of the dryness, Hargeisa is a lively city with buzzing atmosphere. The street life in Hargeisa is truly diverse. At the same second, you can witness honking cars moving from one place to another, donkeys pulling water canisters, people exchanging piles of Somaliland shillings to dollars at the money market, goats running around, and ladies selling oranges from wheelbarrows.

Although the environment in Hargeisa was definitely different from what we are used to in Finland, our trip was a success. Our time in Hargeisa was filled with warmth and friendly smiles, and we were encountered by such hospitality and helpfulness of the local people. Our local team member, who was a UK trained health expert, had many roles during our trip, which illustrates the complex reality of life in Hargeisa. He was a specialist in an area of health services and at the same time an expert in Somali culture, a driver, a caring father of children suffering from “winter” flu, an expert in on-the-job training, a son of a respected religious scholar with a huge and helpful network including 30 children and 200 grandchildren, a husband of locally trained medical doctor, a certified guard carrying a gun, as it is required to accompany foreigners, and many more.
Without the help of our local team member our trip would have not been as successful!

Now we are all excited to analyse the first data and gain better understanding on how this kind of development strategies, based on brain gain, can be utilized in order to provide the best possible results in strengthening healthcare systems.


BLOG: By Janet Janbek: Vaccine Preventable Infectious Diseases in the Syrian Context

The Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian-Syrian border. Available:

The combination of having lived in Jordan for over 20 years and being a passionate public health student, it seemed obvious to me which topic I would cover with research when talking about health care in disaster situations. When the Syrian war first broke out, we could see and feel the consequences first hand in Jordan with a huge influx of Syrian refugees into the country- most directly sensed economically due to a simple equation of having huge numbers of people in a small country with limited recourses. When zooming in on the different dimensions of this crisis, one particular issue catches the eye- the infectious diseases situation, and more specifically the vaccine preventable ones. These include polio, Tuberculosis (TB), cutaneous leishmeiniasis (CL) and measles. The table below shows numbers for the cases of these diseases in Syria and the neighboring countries.

Infectious disease Country and Statistics
Measles Syria: UNICEF reported 594 cases by end of

2014, other sources claim 7000 to 10000 cases

Lebanon: 13% increase.* Jordan: From 24 cases to over 200 in one year.*

TB Syria: 6% new cases and 31% re-treatment cases

Lebanon: 27% increase in cases * Jordan: 22% increase in cases due to Syrian refugees (of the total 40% increase).

CL Syria: More than 41,000 cases in 2013 **

Turkey: 1843 cases in refugee camps in 2014 *

Lebanon: 97% of all cases involve Syrian refugees in 2013

Polio Syria: 7,600 cases.

No new cases from 2015 until April 2016

*Increase in cases is documented to be attributed to the Syrian refugees.

** Syria has been endemic with CL for decades.

Table by Janet Janbek, adapted from (1) and (5).

It is important to note that these statistics are not inclusive of all cases due to a large number of refugees living outside of the camps in poor conditions and have no access to medical care, inability of hosting countries to screen refugees when huge numbers come in within a short period of time and difficulty in detecting cases inside Syria due to the hardships and risks connected with reaching the dangerous areas.

Many factors have contributed to this crisis, these include destruction of health care systems in Syria, interruption infection control and immunization programs, shortage of drugs, sanctions imposed on Syria, huge numbers of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries and Europe who live in camps or outside in unsanitary and crowded conditions, lack of access to water, starvation and unsafe food. Response has been in the form of huge immunization programs in the whole region by international institutions as well as individual neighboring countries. Despite that, the fact that diseases have not yet been eradicated makes this an important topic for response analysis to identify the gap between the responses and needs. Firstly, the mentioned contributing factors remain present with the ongoing war and constant relocation of Syrian refugees challenges surveillance systems and vaccination programs. Secondly, there is no uniformity in screening procedures among hosting countries where health policies differ and are majorly challenged by having to treat individuals with no medical records. Thirdly, international aid has been modest and underfunding is a big challenge especially for hosting countries with limited recourses. In Jordan for example, the cuts on the governmental health provisions have led to big numbers of refugees being denied access to health care services. Lastly, funding sent to Syria continues to be rejected by the government.


Efforts need to be made and recourses allocated by donor countries to support the national agencies and health care systems in hosting countries. It is crucial to point out the importance of keeping documentations of different offered interventions to avoid repetitions and unnecessary usage of resources. This needs to be achieved by the constant collaboration of involved international health organization in plotting interventions and emergency plans for response as well as unifying guidelines for treatments and interventions offered to the hosting countries. Donor countries and international aid agencies need to continue efforts to negotiate with and put pressure on the Syrian government and their allies and ask for access to distant locations that are difficult to reach. Furthermore, European countries and others need to help host more refugees and lift the burden off the current hosting countries which can allow to better carry out surveillance, screening and vaccinations programs. Financial support from international organizations is highly needed to carry out set out programs.


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  3. Syria crisis: humanitarian situation, needs and response [Internet]. International Committee of the Red Cross. 2016 [cited 13 December 2016]. Available from:
  4. Murthy SChristian M. Infectious Diseases Following Disasters. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2 December 2016];4(03):232-238.Available from:
  5. Ismail S, Abbara A, Collin S, Orcutt M, Coutts A, Maziak W et al. Communicable disease surveillance and control in the context of conflict and mass displacement in Syria. International Journal of Infectious Diseases [Internet]. 2016 [cited 6 December 2016];47:15-22. Available from: