Huge grant for public health impressive for UNC-CH

July 4, 2014 

The name of the project – Monitoring and Evaluation to Assess and Use Results Evaluation – isn’t particularly catchy, but its importance is truly global. And once again, a Triangle university is leading the way, this time in an effort to help developing countries monitor epidemics and use the data to help control disease.

The University of North Carolina can claim a justifiably proud moment as the leader of the effort, along with Tulane University and four consulting companies. How proud? The project just received a $180 million grant from the federal government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development. In the university’s history, only a previous grant for the same project was larger than this one.

North Carolinians and UNC-CH alumni are reminded not just of their university’s excellence, but of its importance to the world.

UNC-CH is prominent in many fields, including social work and public health and medicine, and the UNC system has had a number of opportunities to bust its buttons over the four decades of its existence at the accomplishments of its institutions. N.C. State and UNC-CH have enjoyed the national marquee on many occasions.

This is big. The collection of data pertaining to epidemics can inform countries – many of them poor and plagued with the ravages of disease and famine and natural catastrophes – on how to target diseases and the threat of diseases. Some 80 countries could benefit from this research, which has been ongoing for almost 20 years.

Already, research has helped those countries deal with AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and myriad other diseases.

The United States has not been spared in its history from pandemic and other health crises, but the greater access to health care and to immunization enjoyed by most (though certainly not all) Americans has kept diseases such as smallpox and measles and polio in check.

Most Americans likely take that for granted. That’s unless, of course, they’ve traveled to undeveloped areas and witnessed the suffering of people who often are poor and uneducated and simply unaware of the health threats they face. It does not take long, absent preventive programs, for a disease to sweep through a country and cause untold deaths.

The research UNC is leading will give countries the information they need to target specific diseases as they come up or, better still, to anticipate from data where they might arise and act with vaccinations to contain them.

What wonderful fortune it is to have the resources of a great university, built by the people of North Carolina, to put behind this effort, and it’s significant, too, that the United States continues its leadership of the free world by investing in projects like this. For offering life-saving public health help, and not just military assistance or interventions, is indeed what that leadership is all about.

Yet again, one of North Carolina’s public research universities demonstrates that it is capable of returning to the people who have supported it, and to humanity, the dividends of over 200 years of progress. It is indeed a proud, and life-saving, day.

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