Strategic Initiatives

With more than 200 full-time faculty members and approximately 1,600 students, the Gillings School of Global Public Health has expertise in almost every imaginable area of public health.

Past rounds of strategic planning in the School have identified topics for which the School has special expertise in and the potential for great impact by solving big public health problems. No organization can be all things to all people; focus is essential to achieve impact. For purposes of communication, fundraising and allocation of scarce resources, it is critical that we identify high-priority focus areas that deserve special attention where additional resources could help us to accelerate an even more significant, positive and transformative impact upon public health. These areas should be interdisciplinary and have the potential for inclusion of all the School’s departments and units. For example, the topic of eliminating health disparities includes basic epidemiologic research on social determinants, nutrition interventions to improve access of poor populations to healthy foods, health services research to understand whether minorities experience particular access issues and consequences of health disparities on maternal and child health.

In 2005, Dean Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, worked with people in the School to map recommendations from prior strategic planning efforts. It was concluded that several different strategic planning rounds, including a comprehensive process conducted while William Roper, MD, MPH, was dean of the School, had identified similar priority topics including ending the obesity epidemic, improving global health, eliminating health disparities and providing safe water in North Carolina and beyond.

Following discussions with the Dean’s Council, we decided to build on these prior strategic planning processes and to develop plans in several key areas we identified as strategic initiatives.

These initiatives would receive special attention in our fundraising efforts and during the School’s yearly budget process. Strategic initiative areas also are priorities for Gillings Innovation Laboratory (GILs) funding and for fundraising by our School’s Advancement staff.

Faculty members led the strategic planning process for improving global health, eliminating health disparities and overcoming obesity. These have included slightly different but wide-ranging efforts to solicit and integrate input from a variety of stakeholders across the school and beyond. The former head of Water and Sanitation at the World Health Organization, Jamie Bartram, PhD, professor of environmental sciences and engineering, has helped develop the Water Institute at UNC where he serves as the director. Dr. Bartram also serves as the Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor.

Because of opportunities to defeat cancer made possible by the University Cancer Research Fund, we added cancer as an additional initiative.

In 2010, we advanced our efforts with SPH2020. SPH2020 is an interactive planning process in which we asked: what kind of school do we want to be in 2020? Once we created the map, we created ad-hoc task forces to address different quadrants in the map (e.g., teaching and learning, global school and revenue generation). Through time, we will add additional initiatives and potentially retire some. As a final element of our planning efforts, we are gearing up for a major examination of teaching for the 21st century.

All of this is part of our efforts to anticipate future needs and to accelerate our impact.