Despite an economy that is still developing, Rwanda operates a universal health care system generally regarded as one of the best in Africa.

The East African nation, where a tribal genocide claimed approximately 800,000 lives in 1994, has become a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in public health.

One of those experiments is the University of Global Health Equity, which launched in 2015 and offers a master’s degree in public health and is constructing a medical school campus.

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D.

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D.

Professor of Biology Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., director of Boston College’s new Global Public Health and the Common Good program, spent a week in Rwanda in January lecturing at UGHE on public health and threats posed by urbanization, development, pesticides, and the proliferation of gas-powered cars, trucks, and buses.

Landrigan says he focused on strategies that can help rapidly developing countries like Rwanda grow without the degradation of public health and the environment that marked industrialization in the U.S. and Western Europe.

“The most important element of these strategies is to take advantage of new technological developments in energy production and build their economy on clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, rather than on coal and oil. A second element is to build smart, well-designed cities that incentivize public transport and discourage widespread use of private vehicles.”

While visiting the country, Landrigan joined Harvard Medical School Professor Paul Farmer, M.D., co-founder and chief strategist of the international non-governmental organization Partners In Health, which played a central role in the development of UGHE along with the Cummings Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Landrigan says he hopes to find ways for BC students and graduates to participate in PIH initiatives in Rwanda, Haiti, and the other countries served by the organization.

–Ed Hayward | University Communications