Catalyst Magazine

Global Connections: School of Nursing Takes on Health Care Disparities with Global Learning for Health Equity Network

A group of people
Global Learning for Health Equity Network members gather in Baltimore during a fall visit. School of Nursing Dean Yolanda Ogbolu (sixth from left) told them, “We thought, when we set up the seed grants, that it was really important to provide you with mentorship and technical assistance throughout the whole process. We are here for you.” 

Researchers at Montana State University will learn from researchers in Kenya about policies in the African country addressing poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes among adolescents in rural communities. 

The Athens City-County Health Department in Ohio will explore how other countries support older adults as Athens strives to make the region a great place to grow old. 

Public health officials in Washtenaw County, Mich., will share with India their research on how women experiencing personal and systematic barriers to well-being achieve access to health care, education for their children, and employment.  

And the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) seeks to learn from the Evangelical Church of Tanzania how to improve palliative care services in Baltimore. 

These are just some of the connections created and projects underway as a result of the expansion of the Global Learning for Health Equity Network (GLHEN), through a grant received by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The nearly $1 million grant was initiated in fall 2022 and runs through September 2025. 

The GLHEN, built on the belief that interventions designed to eliminate health inequities in other countries may also work in local communities in the United States, aims to build a framework that will support the adaptation of health equity interventions from overseas to U.S. settings with a strong focus on community engagement and bidirectional learning, which emphasizes mutual learning, co-development, and academic partnerships. 

The United States continues to lag behind other high-income countries on significant health indicators, including infant mortality, chronic disease, and overall mortality, largely due to health and health care inequities. Additionally, societally imposed norms and historic systemic oppression have resulted in widespread inequities throughout the country, which have led to higher health care costs, a decrease in overall positive health outcomes in marginalized populations, and premature deaths.  

Network Housed at UMB 

The GLHEN is housed at UMB with collaborating partners/learning communities that include the Athens City-County Health Department; the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.; and the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in the Four Corners region of the Southwest. A shared vision, along with mutual goals and metrics are key components of the GLHEN, which utilizes a learning systems action model that begins with an internal and external scan and then designs, tests, evaluates, and adjusts its framework for research and action. 

Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD ’11, NNP, FNAP, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, serves at the principal investigator on the GLHEN grant, while Virginia Rowthorn, JD, LLM, executive director of UMB’s Center for Global Engagement, is the co-investigator. 

The current work through the GLHEN builds on and expands upon work completed under a prior RWJF grant, also of nearly $1 million, which funded the development and establishment of the GLHEN. The original grant, also led by Ogbolu and Rowthorn, was a multiphase project to help establish the value of global learning for health equity to improve the health and well-being of people in the five learning communities mentioned above.   

The most recent grant implements the global learning framework and model developed by the five GLHEN partners, which are now guiding the work of seven grantees drawn from public health departments and community organizations around the country. The partners support these community-based grantees in applying practices of global learning. Research from the original grant found that the most significant barrier to global learning is a lack of understanding and mentorship. 

These seven grantees and projects of the GLHEN’s second phase include: 

  • Montana State University: Global Learning for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health; partner location: Kenya 
  • The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti, Mich: 4 Pillars Model — Centering Women’s Access Through Agency; partner location: India 
  • Athens, Ohio, City-County Health Department: Global Exploration of Age Friendly & Aging Supportive Communities; partner location: to be determined 
  • The Cambodian Family Community Center, Santa Ana, Calif.: Global Learning in Addressing Trauma Cambodia/U.S. Immigrant Communities; partner location: Cambodia
  • UMSON and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania: The Community-Based Palliative Care Model; partner location: Tanzania 
  • Hood Exchange, Atlanta: The Hood Exchange Inaugural Racial Healing Cohort; partner location: Ghana 
  • Empowering Communities Block by Block, Baltimore: B’more Global at Community Walk Through Theater; partner location: to be determined. 

‘The Real B’More Story’ Tour 

This past fall, UMB hosted a GLHEN “convening,” bringing together these new grantees to provide mentoring and feedback as the grantees work on creating planning grants of their own. The new grantees presented summaries of their ongoing work. The previous day, they had participated in a bus tour narrated by Lori Edwards, DrPH, BSN ’80, RN, CNS-PCH, BC, FAAN, assistant professor and associate dean for the Master of Science in Nursing program. 

The bus tour “highlighted various strengths and the great work of collaborators who are eager to share their stories, their communities, and their advocacy and community services,” Edwards said.  

The tour, themed “The Real B’More Story: Strong and Engaged Communities, District Neighborhoods, Hidden Gems, and Centuries of Resilience,” was designed to show Baltimore’s strengths through the voices of community-engaged leaders, contextualize the history that impacts the city today, and illuminate cultural treasures. It included stops at: 

  • Enoch C. Pratt Free Library 
  • Franklin Square 
  • Julie Community Center 
  • McCulloh Homes 
  • UMB Community Engagement Center 
  • Community Walk Through Theater 

“We really wanted you to understand, as a group, how important community engagement is to us,” Ogbolu said about the bus tour, as she and Rowthorn kicked off the convening. “We really see it as core and central to global learning for our faculty, and I think that tour really helped us to do that.” 

In welcoming remarks to the group, Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, UMB provost and executive vice president, noted that one of the six themes of UMB’s strategic plan is Global Engagement and Education. 

“As we state in our strategic objective under that theme, we are committed to improving the human condition through engagement, education, and research,” Ward said. “To our partners who have joined us in this important work, we say thank you for lending us your own standing as national leaders in global learning. Thank you for partnering with us to create the Global Learning for Health Equity Network. Your work and your efforts hold the promise of truly transforming how we think about addressing health inequities in the United States and how we can apply a global learning framework that can guide us in harnessing and adapting global ideas.” 

Ogbolu told the grantees that she never wants them to feel alone in their work. 

“This is not a traditional grant, where we provided you with a grant and now let’s go off and you all do your own thing,” she said. “We thought, when we set up the seed grants, that it was really important to provide you with mentorship and technical assistance throughout the whole process. We are here for you.” 

Spread the love

Mary Therese Phelan

Mary Therese Phelan is manager of media and public relations in the Office of Communications at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

CATALYST magazine

Executive Board

Lynne Henry, Laura Kozak, Larry Kushner, Jennifer Litchman, Thomas Sullivan, Kate Ostrowski


Lynne Henry

Managing Editor

Chris Zang

Assistant Editor

Kate Ostrowski

Photography Director

Matthew D’Agostino


Michelle Baffuto

Web Director

Amir Chamsaz

Marketing Manager

Kristi McGuire