Social Justice is a cross-cutting value of the Department that informs our approach to global health whether we are doing research, capacity building, or educating the next generation of global health leaders. Below are a few projects that exemplify this core value.
Social Justice Overview
Health Alliance International, a UW-affiliated nongovernmental organization, is leading a consortium of non-governmental organizations that are pushing for donors and ministries of health to make signing the NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening a condition for receiving funding or working in their countries.
The Code of Conduct, started by Health Alliance International, focuses on strengthening health systems within a country and sets ethical principles for groups to follow, including:
- Engaging in hiring practices that ensure long-term health system sustainability.
- Enacting employee compensation practices that strengthen the public sector.
- Pledging to create and maintain human resources training and support systems.
- Minimizing the NGO management burden for ministries of health.
- Supporting ministries of health as they engage with communities.
- Advocating for policies which promote and support the public sector.
“When the Code was first released in 2008, our focus was to get other NGOs on board and committed to a set of best practices to support public-sector health systems,” said James Pfeiffer, the executive director of Health Alliance International. “But over time we’ve realized that if we really want to make sure that NGOs aren’t harming public-sector health systems, we have to get donors on board.”
UW clinical psychologist professor Debra Kaysen teaches a type of therapy that is easing the anguish of rape survivors in war-torn countries. The therapy was so effective in the Democratic Republic of Congo it prompted one counselor to tell Kaysen: "When I first saw these women they were ashamed. They couldn't lift their heads up. Now, they glow."
Kaysen worked with colleagues from Johns Hopkins University to adapt a treatment called cognitive processing therapy – which teaches people "the skill of thinking differently about your thinking," she says. "It's a little like doing yoga for your brain."
Survivors of sexual violence often second-guess and blame themselves, Kaysen says. Cognitive processing therapy helps them address their emotions, look at the trauma realistically, and realize they didn’t have control over the event.
Dr. Judy Bass at Johns Hopkins, Kaysen and colleagues conducted a randomized trial in 15 villages of the Congo, where nearly 40 percent of women have experienced sexual violence. The country has few mental-health services.
Treatment was brief – only 12 visits, administered by Congolese counselors. The results were dramatic. Six months later, only 9 percent of those who went through the therapy in groups still experienced depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress syndrome, compared to 42 percent in the control group, whose participants received individual support. Results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"It's good evidence for possible sustainability," Kaysen says. "We're hoping for funding to scale it up in the eastern region. The majority of rapes occur there."
The PEPFAR Policy Monitoring Project was a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the University of Washington, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Health Policy Project. The objective of this project was to monitor progress toward achieving HIV-related policy reforms in PEPFAR partner countries and build policy development and monitoring capacity of key institutions in PEPFAR partner countries.