Exchange Matters / January 17, 2023

Strengthening Global Health Capacity and Accessibility Through Exchange

Throughout January, the Global Ties Network is exploring how international exchanges programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) advance global health capacities in communities in the United States and abroad. From sharing best practices to prevent substance abuse among youth to strengthening healthcare systems to combat infectious diseases and create greater health accessibility, three IVLP partners share their thoughts on why exchange matters below.

Participants pose in front of the Pro Football Hall of Fame where they have the opportunity to learn more about their youth outreach programs. Photo provided by Michelle Wilson

Global Ties Akron

IVLP: Sports for Development: Preventing Substance Abuse Among Youth
NPA:  Meridian International Center
By Michelle Wilson, Executive Director

In August of 2022, Global Ties Akron had the honor of hosting four leaders from India on the topic of “Preventing Substance Abuse Among Youth Through the Lens of Sports for Development.” The participants were in Akron at a time when the focus on youth and violence has been an increasingly important topic. During this period, protests took place in response to the loss of life of a number of young people in our community, ranging from youth-on-youth violence to police interactions with youth. Our participants attended discussions with our community members regarding a mutual interest in keeping young people safe, healthy, and on the right path towards good life decisions. The meetings and tours our participants engaged in included the Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step program in Akron, the Football Hall of Fame and their youth engagement initiatives, and the LeBron James Foundation iPromise School.

IVLP visitors meet with Team USA athlete and disability rights advocate Casey Followay (back left) and members of Adaptive Sports Ohio. Photo provided by Michelle Wilson

The participants were able to put their own sports and coaching skills to action on Akron’s soccer fields with the Akron Inner City Soccer Club. They met with the founder Coach Dele Olabisi and his students to learn more about the intersection between sports and youth development. The highlight of the program was meeting Team USA athlete, 2019 Para-Pan American Games, 7x OHSAA State Champion, and disability rights advocate Casey Followay. Casey joined the group in teaching and playing wheelchair football for the afternoon. The group learned about the work of Adaptive Sports Ohio, founded by Casey Followay’s mom and now expanded to offer 10 adaptive sports throughout Ohio as a partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

It was a fun and engaging program for all involved. The group also enjoyed dinner and hospitality at the home of my brother and  Don and Barbie Obermeier, my brother and sister-in-law.

Michigan Council for Citizen Diplomacy

IVLP: Combating Infectious Diseases
NPA: Meridian International Center
By Yanjiang Teng, Program Coordinator

In November 2022, Michigan Council for Citizen Diplomacy—housed in the Visiting International Professional Program at Michigan State University—had the pleasure of hosting a delegation of Indian public health officials for the in-person International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled, “Combating Infectious Diseases.” The visit covered a range of topics including state infectious disease policy and programs, community partnerships to raise awareness about infectious diseases, and expert perspectives on efficient ways of responding to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

The IVLP visitors enjoy the beautiful campus visit of Michigan State University. Photo provided by Yanjiang Teng

All visitors had engaged conversation with those policy makers and leading scholars in the field. At a meeting with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the group attended a discussion on Michigan’s public health system and its state-wide policy and program on infectious disease including the battle with COVID-19. A second meeting focused on communication education and featured an expert from Ingham County Health Department who shared how the local health department implemented educational programs to protect the health and well-being of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third meeting was organized by the MSU Institute of Global Health and made up of a panel of three MSU professors and researchers. The panel shared their cutting-edge studies on the advances of the public health diseases and its measures against them, such as public health security capacity building, public health approach to detecting and surveillance of emerging zoonotic diseases, and early viral detection in wastewater.

The IVLP discussions were so engaging that everyone hated to say goodbye. As one visitor put it: “This is a very eye-opening experience for all of us. [T]hey will help our practice. I will follow up with them and continue the conversation.”

The IVLP delegation meets with Michigan State University scholars for a panel focused on public health security capacity building and research. Photo provided by Yanjiang Teng

This is the second time the Michigan Council for Citizen Diplomacy hosted IVLP for this same project since the pandemic. In 2021, a virtual program for 25 public health officials from 14 African countries was hosted online. At that time, President of Michigan State University, one of the nation’s top biomedical researchers on defense against emerging infectious diseases, was invited to give a keynote talk on the university’s protocols against the COVID-19.


IVLP: Building a Destination-Based Healthcare Industry
NPA: Meridian International Center
By Julia Sosnivka, Program Officer

Chicago is a unique city for locals and visitors—thanks in part to its 77 different neighborhoods, each representing a different ethnic background—and its resiliency, diversity, and harmony are noted by all who visit. In September 2022, WorldChicago had the honor of welcoming five visitors from Indonesia for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), “Building a Destination-Based Healthcare Industry,” conducted in partnership with Meridian International Center.

Public health has been at the forefront of many conversations following the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the global population. Members of the Chicago community have been working to combat disparities among their neighborhoods to create a more equitable society.

One of the resources the IVLP group met with was the National Center for Healthcare Leadership, an organization dedicated to advancing healthcare leadership and organizational excellence by building diverse, inclusive, and collaborative relationships in the United State and abroad. The primary focus of their meeting was to discuss the U.S. Cooperative for International Patient Programs (USCIPP), a consortium of U.S. academic medical centers, hospitals, and health systems that work with international patients, providers, hospitals, governments, and other partners. USCIPP fosters peer-to-peer learning and organizational improvement through collaborative initiatives and the continuous and open sharing of knowledge and industry best practices. The National Center for Healthcare Leadership shared insight into how they are able to provide organizational improvement through peer-to-peer interactions, and spoke about their work to improve healthcare through evidence-based leadership practices, cultivating communities for peer collaboration across organizations, and collectively developing industry models and benchmarks to improve healthcare.

Peer-to-peer interaction is important to continue our conversations within any industry, and it’s even more remarkable when we find organizations such as the National Center for Healthcare Leadership who are facilitating those conversations within the public health sector. Exchanges matter for their ongoing conversations on solutions and learning experiences. The exchanges of ideas are not just within the realm of international exchanges, but through the resources and community members within our own cities.

IVLP visitors from Indonesia pose for a photo at the WorldChicago office. Photo taken by Megan Spillman, IVLP Program Manager at WorldChicago.