Connecting the Dots: WHO and The Task Force’s FACE Program Commemorate Three Years of Global Health Compassion Rounds

By Andi Kezh, Communications Intern

Every three months, professionals from across the world come together virtually to discuss an often forgotten facet of the global health sector: compassion. 

Colleagues from the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Task Force’s Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE) program host the Global Health Compassion Rounds to share experiences, challenge ideas and spark thinking specifically centered around compassion in global health. 

The webinars are called “Rounds” in keeping with medical practice where a patient’s entire health care team gathers to discuss and develop a plan of care. 

The upcoming 12th compassion Round in December, “Connecting the Dots: Reflecting on 3 Years of GHCR & Charting Next Steps,” will commemorate the three-year anniversary of the series. The gathering will provide a space for reflection from frequent attendees as well as spark ideas for next steps to move the series forward. Speakers will include two leaders in the compassion field: Dr. Liz Grant, Director of the Global Health Academy and Assistant Principal for Global Health at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Dr. Thupten Jinpa, Founder of the Compassion Institute and English translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Canada.

The Global Health Compassion Rounds were established after a 2019 discussion between WHO’s Head of Policy and Partnerships, Dr. Shams Syed, and FACE Director, Dr. David Addiss.

“Co-designing the Global Health Compassion Rounds has provided WHO and FACE with an opportunity to explore how compassion is linked to and drives a myriad of content areas within global health. These quarterly exchanges over the last 3 years have allowed a piercing spotlight to be shone on specific subject areas,” said Dr. Syed. 

Through a partnership between FACE and WHO’s Global Learning Laboratory (GLL) for Quality Universal Health Care (UHC), the series was born. FACE centers compassion and ethics within global health work through projects in areas such as epidemiology, research ethics, public health workforce support, and ethics training, while bringing in collaborations with key partners around the world. 

Over the past three years, Global Health Compassion Rounds have hosted more than 1100 participants from 73 countries. 

“From those ‘in the field’ to executives, administrators and leaders to those behind the scenes supporting supply chains, all are meant to be here,” said Amy Richards, consultant for FACE. “We’ve welcomed human rights advocates, healthcare providers, academics, humanitarian workers, and more.”

So far, the Global Health Compassion Rounds have focused on a range of topics such as COVID-19, quality care, faith, leadership, water sanitation and hygiene, neglected tropical diseases, maternal and newborn care, palliative care, storytelling, and measurement. For the upcoming 12th Round on December 20th, FACE has invited previous attendees and compassion science leaders to serve as panelists to reflect on how the past sessions have impacted their individual work.

“The Global Health Compassion Rounds have illuminated how compassion permeates all areas of global health,” said Addiss. “The Rounds have provided a focal point for exploration, understanding, sharing experiences, and challenging us to think, live, and work more intentionally.”  

The team aims for the 12th Round to serve as a stepping stone for co-imagining GCHR version 2.0 to start in 2023 and progressing the larger consciousness-raising movement in the field of global health.

In characterizing this larger movement, Richards said, “this will be a collective effort that comes forth in other measures such as reduced unintentional harm, improved ethical decision-making and safety, flourishing amidst providers, equitable distribution of services and quality, and more.”

Register for the upcoming Global Health Compassion Round here.

To see the synthesis of learnings from GHCRs 1-11 for discussion during the 12th Round, click here.

Header image photo credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images for ITI.

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