Challenge Statement from Student Leaders

Students challenge the University of Edinburgh and other Institutions to take leadership in six key areas to advance global health.

An Issue to Challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic is a watershed moment. It has laid bare the complex interdependencies between human health and the health of the planet, it has exacerbated extant inequalities across the globe, and it has created new forms of inequity. As students, calling for a transformative paradigm for the future of health, we are mindful of the difficult social, political and economic questions that need to be addressed and choices that will need to be made. Universities have a critical role to play in driving research, education, innovation and engagement. 

Students are Leaders

During February and March 2021, students across all disciplines of the University of Edinburgh took part in the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s (EFI) Student Leaders Programme. In this space our diverse voices critiqued the current ‘normal’ and we created these challenges as a signal of how we can realise our ambitions across the full extent of the agenda for the Future of Health. Our leadership as a University, balanced by our followership, calls for change to be made so that together we can achieve equity in health across the globe.  

As students of the University of Edinburgh, and as leaders ourselves, we present our ambitions for our own institution as a leader in global health. We challenge our University, and other institutions around the world, to make substantive changes in six key domains. By doing this we can make a significant impact on the future of health for everyone:

  1. Curate, present and use data in more globally equitable and accessible ways. At a local level - people and communities must be able to use data about their own health to improve their own situation; and by having a clearer picture globally, we’re better able to improve individual, local and global health. We need better tools to increase accurate, real time data sharing.
  2. Create different kinds of networks of impact for health. Engaging equitably through local leaders, technologies and other real world connections to break down barriers between academic and community voices.
  3. Learning to lead in partnership and with communities. Improving global health requires dialogue and collaboration within and beyond education. We must invest in these skills to communicate for impact. Do our structures incentivise this kind of leadership?
  4. Establish “health in all curricula”. Health knowledge and information should be embedded across all curricula and policy. At every level we must design for wellness and interrogate the physical and mental health implications of all our programmes.
  5. Model environment leadership: Commitment to a carbon neutral education and transparency in our efforts to tackle the climate emergency and where we are falling short.
  6. Lead equitable education including resource sharing and building capacities in Lower-Middle Income Countries: We can’t plan for a healthy future if our peers and our children are not educated.  Education across all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary – determines our health current and future health outcomes.

The Edinburgh Futures Conversations: Future of Health (hosted by EFI and the Global Health Academy), highlighted the importance of collaboration across all sectors and the appreciation for the circularity of all health. For us, the strongest message from the event was that students and young people should be listened to and included.  We are powerful current and future global leaders.

As students of the University of Edinburgh, we are taught to think critically and challenge what is presented to us. Only with diverse voices challenging the ‘normal’, can we truly realise our ambitions across the full extent of the agenda of the Future of Health.