Access to Health Receives Grant for Research and Outreach in Africa

November 06, 2014

The Access to Health project at Northwestern University School of Law was recently awarded a development grant that will support the creation of new practicum sites in Africa. The grant is part of a larger package of U.S. Department of Education Title VI funding awarded to Northwestern University’s Program of African Studies and its consortium partner, the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Access to Health was established to leverage interdisciplinary university research and clinical expertise in an effort to create sustainable health interventions for communities in the developing world. Faculty and students work in partnership with community leaders to conduct a multidisciplinary health needs assessment. Based on the results of that study, both the team and the community identify and implement a capacity-building intervention.

Juliet Sorensen, clinical associate professor of law in the Center for International Human Rights, is one of the founders of Access to Health. In her Health and Human Rights class—for which she received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Master’s in Public Health Program this year—Northwestern law, business, medical, and public health students work in interdisciplinary groups on various aspects of the needs assessment. In previous years teams have worked on projects in Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic; this year, a team has been working in Douentza, Mali.

"Mali is emerging from a traumatic period of militant occupation," Sorensen said. "Order has largely been restored, but there is a real need for infrastructure projects in the areas of health, education, microenterprise, and agriculture. This grant makes it possible for us to expand our collaboration with our colleagues at the University of Bamako in Mali, and further develop specific, meaningful, and sustainable public health and human rights interventions for that country."

An initiative of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law and the Center for Global Health at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Access to Health will use the grant to include Northwestern students in the establishment of a new community-based health program in Douentza. The Access to Health grant is for $30,000 over four years. This is the first time Northwestern Law School has received a Title VI grant. 

The grant package supports collaborative activities between Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that enhance African studies on both campuses and provide new opportunities for students and faculty—including annual joint symposia, new course and concentration offerings, and strengthened instruction in African languages. The total amount awarded to the consortium for the first year of the four-year grant is $518,000, with a total funding commitment expected to reach more than $2 million through 2018.