Overview of the Alliance for a Healthier World

** For questions specifically related to the funding grants (Healthier World Challenge Grants) please click here

What is the Alliance for a Healthier World?

The Alliance for a Healthier World is one of four Signature Initiatives established by Johns Hopkins University to stimulate and strengthen university-wide collaboration. It integrates expertise and diverse perspectives to unlock groundbreaking knowledge addressing unresolved global health challenges. The alliance serves as an collaborative ecosystem to stimulate and support university-wide innovation around healthy equity via multidisciplinary events, funding grants, mentorship and strategic communication that bring the Hopkins community together. Experts from medicine, nursing, public health, international relations, engineering, education, business, the social sciences, creative arts and bioethics work side by side with partners and disadvantaged communities around the world.

  • Our vision is to bring together faculty and students from across Johns Hopkins University, along with our partners around the world, to unleash the full range of scientific, analytic, and creative capabilities to promote global health equity.
  • The Alliance is led by David Peters, Chair of the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is advised by a steering committee composed of representatives from the 11 Divisions of Hopkins. You can find a link to more about who and what we are here.LINK

What is “equity”?

Equity in relation to health is about the fair achievement and capability for good health, and not simply the equal distribution of health care. Health equity is a multidimensional concept that is a central concern of social equity and justice – it cannot be viewed in isolation. See Sen (2002). Equity is shaped by a number of individual, social, and environmental factors, including where you live, disparate treatment based on race or gender, governmental or institutional policies, etc. Learn more about these determinants of health here.

Why the focus on health equity and not other areas?

Inequities in the social determinants of health – including socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment, employment, and social support networks – have wide-ranging effects on people’s health and survival. [Marmot M. et al. (2008). Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health. Lancet 372(9650):1661–1669] 

Growing inequities in health, both between and within countries, threaten the community development gains made over the past decades. Health equity is tied to economic and social equity, which contributes to stable, just societies. Learn more about health equity here.

What areas of global health are your focus?

We’ve identified four priority areas that lend themselves to multidisciplinary solutions due to their complexity and overlap with many areas of health and social justice:

  • Food and Nutrition Security;
  • Health Environments;
  • Gender Equity and Justice, and
  • Transformative Technologies and Institutions

You can read more about the thematic areas here.

Why focus on low- and middle-income countries?

Health inequities are linked to complex and seemingly intractable social problems. These challenges are particularly demanding when occurring in the most difficult institutional and resource-constrained contexts, and where involvement of numerous inter-dependent sectors and stakeholders is needed.

Many low and middle-income countries do not yet possess a full suite of robust economic, technological, infrastructure, communications, and social resources to tackle health inequities. To achieve success in nations where such advantages do not exist, we must build solutions that not only solve medical problems but also compensate for resource deficiencies. This means working closely with communities experiencing the challenges, and using innovative, multidisciplinary, scalable approaches, devised and implemented by people specially trained and supported to do so.

Example - To help nations lacking appropriate resources, we need biomedical engineers to design new diagnostic devices; business thinkers to create new models for low-cost device production and distribution; social and political strategists to help nations foster widespread acceptance in communities; and health educators and communicators to help local partners achieve successful adoption.

What do you do? How does it really work?

Building on the proven track record laid by JHU Divisions, the Alliance for a Healthier World supports dynamic collaboration among multiple disciplinary teams of faculty, students, partners and local communities by providing a range of opportunities to stimulate, foster and build skills for working together more effectively. Opportunities include:

  • Grants Program (research grants to catalyze new knowledge and innovative solutions)
  • Global Health Scholars (incubator program for students)
  • Collaborative Activities & Services (events, online platforms, learning resource library)
  • Creative strategic communications (research translation to engage beyond JHU)

So many organizations have “global health” initiatives. How are you different?

We’re different because of the breadth and depth of experience we bring to the table.

  • Spanning 11 distinct divisions and home to the first school of public health and the first formal department of international health, Johns Hopkins University has pioneered the field of global health research and education to address health problems of disadvantaged populations.
  • We have discovered, tested, and supported a wide range of low-cost, highly effective solutions, such as oral rehydration salts to prevent diarrheal deaths.
  • We have also developed deep insights about the different dimensions of disadvantage in populations around the world, and on the social, political, economic, and physical and biological constraints and opportunities for good health.

This long history of innovation and wealth of knowledge from multiple disciplines make us uniquely positioned to tackle complex problems of health equity.

Where is your money coming from?

The founding of our Alliance is supported by funds from the JHU Office of the President and generous supporters who donated to the Rising to the Challenge campaign. To make a gift to support AHW’s continued collaborative research and innovation, visit Make a Gift to explore options 

My organization is interested in getting involved with the Alliance for a Healthier World – how can we do that?

To take on the enormous challenges of improving health equity throughout the world, we seek the support of generous people and innovation organizations who share our dedication.

We invite you to join us as a vital partner in achieving the life changing possibilities we envision. See our Get Involved page to find out more ways you can connect. Please see our make a gift section to support AHW’s continued efforts to produce new research and innovations to fill the gap around unresolved global health challenges

What are the root causes of global health problems?

  • Poverty, lack of education and employment opportunity, gender inequality, discrimination, and human rights violations threaten the health and well-being of millions.
  • Mega-cities are expanding explosively; diet change, unhealthy air, water, and housing, poor infrastructure, and violence are the new urban health challenges.
  • Weak public institutions and failing health markets lead to growing health inequality, counterfeit medicines, and drug resistance.
  • Trends in aging, obesity, non-communicable diseases, and injuries are outpacing the changes needed in prevention, treatment, and financing of health care, while millions of the poor remain vulnerable to under-nutrition and infectious diseases.


Questions related to the Healthier World Challenge Grants are located here.

You can learn more about the technical language used in various disciplines from our Cross-sector Definitions Glossary, available in late 2017 under the Resources section.