1000 insatiable leaders, tackling the world’s biggest challenges, unite in an African capital

By Dr. Alessandro Demaio
Originally published in The Conversation.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.

Defining words by Ghandi, this quote acts as a mantra by which I live my life. A reminder everyday of the importance to act, not just talk. To rally and react, not just offer rhetoric, and to embody the best we can be.

Yet few times has this quote been so poignant, as this last week.

In Tunisia to speak at the global conference of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA, the worldwide body that represents doctors-in-training), I was surrounded by young health leaders ‘walking the walk’ towards a better world. Some 1000 young emerging visionaries from all over the planet, who came to a small, seaside town outside of Tunis to discuss humanity’s greatest challenges, connect to form a powerful new cohort of change and develop effective solutions for a healthier tomorrow.Listening in and watching these remarkable young people, I wanted to share some reflections; some observations from the thousand-strong there – for all young people thirsty for change.

Four key lessons from these emerging leaders.

1. They’re inspired, not overwhelmed

Yes, there are some big global challenges ahead and there’s no doubt we’re against the clock. But being paralysed by fear or overwhelmed by the enormous tasks of mitigation is a waste of both time and energy. Cyclical conversations about the gravity of Climate Change or our major health issues will never lead us in the direction we must move and likely lead to less, rather than more action.

Keeping a clear head, and keeping an eye on what we all want – this is essential for achieving the movement we require in the time it must occur.

Something these young leaders seemed to knew all too well.

2. They’re focused on the future, not the past

Reflection is important; and reflecting on the decisions we and our leaders have made to this point in Global Health history is even more important. Taking the time to look back and digest the path we travelled, if only to avoid making the same mistakes and to inform the context of current challenges.

The danger is, that we spend too much time looking back, and not enough of our energy focusing on the future. That we focus only on the past, and lament the poor and sometimes reckless decisions that have lead us down the path of environmental and health peril, instead of looking at the opportunities we still have and the important cards we hold.

With a buzz of optimism in the Tunisian air – these young people had their sights firmly focused on the road ahead.

3. They’re not putting off until tomorrow what they can start today

Something I hear over and over, is the perception that things will be somehow easier or more opportune to tackle tomorrow. That the political, social or cultural context will somehow alter and correcting the course of our ‘Titanic’ will become simpler.

This is not going to happen. In fact, things are only likely to become harder. Looking at these emerging leaders – they were under no such illusions.

4. Simply starting the conversation is a respectable first step

Despite what I say, it’s not always easy to see the ‘end game’. Climate Change, for example, is a massive and complex problem – but like all problems, solutions must start with a simple conversation. The worst thing that can happen, is that issues such as the environment or rising social inequality become taboo topics and conversation-killers. Avoided rather than debated. Starting a conversation, whilst it may seem simple and a long way from an answer, is an essential beginning and a commendable, necessary move.

Never underestimate the power of social dialogue.

A duo of dares for the not so young.

For those with a little more experience on their side and years of wisdom under their belts, maybe the same advice doesn’t apply. But in the context of this inspiring group last week, I would make two pleas.

A duo of dares.

Mentor.

The first one relates to your years of experience. I hear over and over again, when I interview global and local leaders, that a major catalyst in their lives has been strong mentors. People who have taken the time to lend ongoing advice, shown interest and who ‘have their back’. Personally, this has been essential in my short career so far.

So my first urging to those with experience, wisdom and a little grey hair – reach out and mentor leaders in the ranks below.

Rally.

The second call – rally behind young people such as these, who dare to stick their heads above the proverbial trenches. There were a lot of incredible young people there last week in Tunisia, and as someone who regularly gets to meet inspiring emerging leaders – I can say that we have a lot to be optimistic about. But the reality is that much of society’s wealth, power and decision-making rests with you. In 2014, as a new generation of visionaries put up their hands, be ready to throw your support behind them and catalyse some meaningful change.

Signing off from Tunisia.

In short, we all have a crucial role in social change for a healthier future. What was clear last week, is that these young leaders ‘got it’. If we can spread this inspired thirst for change, and engage those in power to take this group seriously, we might just start to see the progress we so desire, on the big issues at hand, on a scale that is necessary.


Dr. Alessandro Demaio
Australian Medical Doctor; Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health & NCDs at Harvard University
On twitter | NCD Free on Facebook

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61st General Assembly, August Meeting 2012–The Indian Experience (MSAI-India)

The next IFMSA General Assembly, August Meeting 2012 will be held in Mumbai, India. The host is one of our most recent candidate members MSAI (IFMSA-India). The theme will focus on universal health care. Need for Universal Health Care

Theme: Universal Health Care – The Time is Now!

Universal health care – sometimes referred to as universal health coverage, universal coverage, universal care or social health protection – describes health care systems organized around providing a specified package of benefits to all members of a society with the end goal of providing financial risk protection, improved access to health services, and improved health outcomes (World Health Report, 2010).

Last year, our Federation renewed its commitment to the vision of Alma Ata – a world where health is a fundamental human right, a universal societal goal, and a state of well-being enjoyed by everyone. In short, health is for all.

Our tracks…

  • In March Meeting 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia we looked into the gross disparities in health that continue to afflict the majority of the world’s peoples.
  • Our 60th anniversary General Assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark last August Meeting 2011, we imagined the future of health and looked into various ways towards achieving a healthier and more just world. Image
  • March Meeting 2012 in Accra, Ghana, we recognized action on social determinants of health as the key intervention for achieving global health equity.

Action…

Beginning by addressing health inequalities through action on social determinants of health?

The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health identified the health system as one of the crucial determinants of health within countries, and proposed that universal access to health care as a starting point. Today, nearly 100 countries are investing huge resources, establishing agencies, commissioning researches, and holding consultations as they all rush towards the finish line of universal health coverage.

In line with IFMSA’s commitment on this, Universal Health Care will be the theme for the IFMSA General Assembly this August Meeting 2012.

India is a great place to collaborate, share, exchange and build efforts surrounding universal health care. India is a country experiencing a transition towards provisions of easily accessible and affordable health care to all Indians by 2022. A national health-insurance scheme geared towards increasing access for the poor started rolling in April 2008, and so far it has enabled 100 million to have cashless, paperless, portable access to inpatient health care provided by more than 8,000 public and private hospitals across the country. India is more than willing to share its universal health care journey to IFMSA, and to learn from other health systems through IFMSA’s medical students from around the world.

Through the theme events of IFMSA-India and the OC, they hope to gather in one room the leaders of the Universal Health Care movement in India and the amazing medical student-advocates of IFMSA, and spark dynamic discussions about how universal health care can be a reality – and how we doctors-in-training can play our part.

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Mumbai

Mumbai being the hosting city for IFMSA’s 62nd GA – AM 2012 India is, known as the commercial capital of India. Before 1996, Mumbai was known as ‘Bombay. Its original name ‘Bombay’ emerged from the Portugal term ‘Bom Bahai’ meaning good bay/harbor. It is also known as Manchester of India. With the opening up of the Suez Canal in 1869 the city’s future as India’s primary port, was assured. Now, it is the second biggest city in the world.

IndiaImage

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west, China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

ImageHome to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four of the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region’s diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance and led by Mahatma Gandhi.

The Indian economy is the world’s tenth-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialized country. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 28 states and 7 union territories. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multi-ethnic society.

IFMSA-INDIA (MSAI)

MSAI – The Medical Students Association of India is India’s largest represented Medical Student Organization & the offical organization that represents IFMSA – India

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Mission
To be a forum for medical students throughout the world to discuss topics related to health, education and medicine; to formulate policies from such discussions and to carry out appropriate activities; To promote humanitarian ideals and medical ethics amongst medical students; To act as a mechanism for medical students’ professional and scientific exchange and projects; To be a body through which cooperation and contacts with other international organizations are established; To act as a mechanism for member organizations to raise funds for projects recognized by the IFMSA.

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Description
India finally joined the IFMSA family and today Medical Students’ Association of India is also known as “IFMSA INDIA.” Our mission is to improve the medical education and public health care management in India & our vision is to enhance medical education, facilitate & establish communication between student organization, not to forget organize rural health programs in the country.

 

http://www.msa-india.org

Author: Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE 2011/12

Contacts:

OC Chair || Pratap Naidu A. Contact: am2012india@msa-india.org

IFMSA Requests: gs@ifmsa.org