Skip to main content

Millennials, health care is our fight

By Barbara Bush and Andrew Bentley, Special to CNN
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
Faith Maus, a 2011-2012 Global Health Corps Fellow, with members of Daylight Center, a school and community outreach facility in Kapenguria, Kenya.
Faith Maus, a 2011-2012 Global Health Corps Fellow, with members of Daylight Center, a school and community outreach facility in Kapenguria, Kenya.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barbara Bush, Andrew Bentley: Join us in the fight for health equity
  • Bush, Bentley: We believe that access to health care for all is a human right
  • They say young leaders can participate in Global Health Corps to help the world
  • This social movement will help foster best practices in health equity, they say

Editor's note: Barbara Bush is CEO and co-founder, along with Andrew Bentley, of Global Health Corps, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes emerging leaders to build a movement for health equity.

(CNN) -- Lovemore Mupfukura, a 30-year-old from Zimbabwe who studied health education, moves deliberately and concentrates on conversations like they're chess matches. Rithika Mathias, a 25-year-old chemist and musician from Massachusetts, walks quickly and can carry on multiple conversations simultaneously.

One year ago, they didn't know each other. Now, as colleagues, roommates and confidants, they are working to become leaders of our next big social movement -- the fight for health equity.

Lovemore and Rithika work side by side out of identical, windowless offices at Covenant House's Crisis Center in Newark, New Jersey.

As health counselors, they are in charge of the medical intake and well-being of 40 homeless youth. The only part of their demanding day that is consistent is the morning -- they are greeted with a hug when they get to work.

Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush

The two were placed at Covenant House by Global Health Corps.

Founded in 2009, GHC's mission is to mobilize young leaders from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds to promote global health equity. GHC recruits and trains emerging leaders, then places them in one of seven countries to work with a health non-profit or government office for a yearlong fellowship in order to strengthen and learn from the organization.

This week, Lovemore and Rithika will complete their year of service and become GHC alumni as a new class of 106 fellows joins the movement to serve with 44 partner organizations.

Andrew Bentley
Andrew Bentley

Our advocacy for health equity is fueled by the belief that access to quality health care is a human right.

At GHC, we believe the poor, who are burdened the most by disease, deserve our highest quality of care. We know many of the 1.7 million deaths from HIV/AIDS worldwide can be prevented with better access to antiretroviral medicine. We are motivated by the overwhelming costs of health care for the poor and the fact that more than 60% of bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical expenses.

These challenges are daunting, but can be met. We at GHC believe the following four principles are vital to the movement's success:

1. Young people should be at the center of this cause

More undergraduate students in North America are linking arms and demanding global health curricula while building up community organizing skills. GlobeMed, a nonprofit founded in 2007 by students at Northwestern University that partners with grassroots health organizations around the world, has spread to 55 universities and is joined by several new health organizations.

Yet, a scarcity of opportunities and lack of a supportive global health community keeps too many skilled young professionals from fulfilling their potential after college. It's a moral imperative to provide young people opportunities in the global health space.

2. The leaders must be global

GHC has a partnership model where one fellow is always paired with an international fellow. We see our 90 current fellows, who come from 12 countries, sharing challenges and ideas daily, via social media, impromptu gatherings and in-person retreats. The exchange of best practices in this globally connected social movement is not just from the U.S. outward. It is a collaboration that has no boundaries. For example, our fellows at Partners In Health's PACT program in Boston improved care for low-income HIV patients by adopting best practices from community health worker programs implemented in rural Haiti and Rwanda.

3. Complex challenges require diverse skills

Doctors and nurses are vital to the movement for health equity but our next transformational leaders could be from non-traditional health fields such as computer science, economics, or communications.

This year, GHC fellows with architecture backgrounds, working with the MASS Design Group in Rwanda, oversaw the construction of hospitals that use the latest theories of design for efficient care. Our new class of fellows represents 45 fields of expertise.

4. Organizations must take a humble approach

We should stand with, and learn from, those we seek to serve. Health programs should be staffed and led by those in the community who are being served. We should also work in partnership with both the public and private sectors to reach more people. Without these partnerships we will fail.

After the fellowship, Lovemore will partner with another GHC alum in Zimbabwe to establish an organization to serve orphans and other at-risk youth.

Rithika will study medicine at UCLA and focus on community health.

After providing care to hundreds of at-risk youth and receiving hundreds of morning hugs this year, they are ready to lead in the movement for health equity.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Barbara Bush and Andrew Bentley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT