The tender for the first professorship for global child health in Germany was opened at the University Witten-Herdecke early 2017 and was initiated – among others – by GTP who advocated for its establishment during four years with a dedicated working group (Reinhard Klinkott, Carsten Krüger, Peter Meissner, Andreas Schultz, Martin Weber). Eventually, the long search for a university promoting this area of interest as well as for the required financial support succeeded in 2016. The Friede-Springer foundation (Berlin) could be won for funding.

 

Prof Dr Ralf Weigel will – for the next five years – conduct research and teach on health care, but also topics such as the holistic wellbeing of children. „Access to health care is distributed very unequally accross the globe, and also within single countries. My main concern is the question: how can we change that?”, he describes his working area.
Prof Weigel aims to position his future research at the primary health care level, being the one with greatest needs and greatest poverty in most cases. In many African countries, so called Community Health Workers secure care in the villages. Europe has more doctors, but there are deficits in health care as well. “In all countries, there are people who are disadvantaged and often it is children who are most affected by the old saying ‚being poor makes you sick‘ “, he describes his motivation.

In order to change that, it is important for Weigel to define health as more than the absence of disease and to rather use the definition of the World Health Oranization (WHO) that aims at holistic wellbeing. „For a child, it cannot be all to merely survive. How do family and society support growing up in a loving enviroment, thriving and receiving an adequate start into adult live? Apart from medical factors, and more so, social and societal factors are important for my work.“ In many countries, children live without birth certificates, are without identity and therefore exposed to great risks.

Weigel also has some ideas for teaching in Witten:  „I know that there are a number of student initiatives including and particularly in the area of health. I would like to make sure that students continue to develop this strong willingness to help. In this context, issues of sustainability of engagement should not be overseen. Working abroad myself, I have seen colleagues who committed all energy on individual care of their patients. At the time of returning home, almost nothing had structurally changed through.“

During his paediatric specialty training at Charité Berlin, Weigel worked at the paediatric HIV service and was deployed on short term basis to India and Nigeria. This work sparked his passion: in 2002, he left for Malawi in Southern Africa for eight years. He was working as a doctor but also as a consultant to the Malawian Ministry of Health. „It is one thing, to be a motivated doctor and to establish good contact with your patients – and another to document and evaluate your own work in relation to global recommendations in order to identify gaps and thus enable improvement“, he is reflecting upon this time.

Recently, Weigel was in charge of two postgraduate programmes at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine as a lecturer. Here, he conveyed to young doctors how to align their work to international guidelines and to strengthen the health system of their countries.

From the press release of the University of Universität Witten-Herdecke.

Further information