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Hans Rosling at Global Health - Beyond 2015

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Hans Rosling taught postgraduate courses on health systems in resource poor settings at Uppsala University from 1983 to 1996. Students were Nordic health staff with assignments in low-income countries In 1997 he became Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet. He formally retired in 2014 but remain attached as lecturer as well as mentor for research and teaching. In 1996 he initiated a 5 week undergraduate course in Global Health that examines 160 students per year and later also a post-graduate course program for PhD students in international health. To be used at these courses he initiated and coauthored Global Health - an introductory textbook.

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Rosling's presentations were grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations and World Bank data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling took this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster's flair. Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.) Rosling began his wide-ranging career as a physician, spending many years in rural Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (which he named konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden, wrote a textbook on global health, and as a professor at the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm initiated key international research collaborations. He's also personally argued with many heads of state, including Fidel Castro.

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Global Health Beyond-2015, hosted by the Swedish Society of Medicine, was a revitalizing meeting–taking the meaning of an engaging conference to another level. It was an epic event for Europe to gather the worlds “star” leaders in global health—bringing together the notorious Lancet editor—Richard Horton to the professor that has enchanted lecture halls of hundreds with his statistical analysis—Hans Rosling to the famous NCD couple—the Beagleholes and civil society champion—dear Lola Dare. However, it was the numerous tweeters of Stockholm, Sweden and great global community though showing great admiration for these key messages, evoked an even more critical concern (Hasting G., 2012). Through the use of social media, the twitter chats and debates, there was space and recognition that fundamental questions regarding the principles, priorities, barrier, processes of a global health agenda beyond 2015 still remain unresolved. Over the course of the conference and the subsequent workshop, these voices, especially the voice of the audience, was gathered and integrated into the Stockholm Declaration on Global Health (Byass P, Friberg P, 2015).

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In the final analysis, the reputation of the Nobel Prize has been tarnished by the scandals at the Swedish Academy in 2017–18, and the scientific and medical scandal caused by the fatal windpipe transplantations at Karolinska.11 The Nobel Foundation seeks to improve its public profile by utilizing Rosling’s name for various public events, and supports the handout of Factfulness to all Swedish students when they leave senior high school. However, the propagation of a celebrity-based view on global development is a very different task from the Nobel Foundation’s primary role of letting specialized committees select and reward the best researchers in their academic disciplines. The Foundation´s close link with Factfulness runs the risk of backfire and could, in the end, damage its core scientific reputation.

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Byass P, Friberg P, Blomstedt Y, Wall S. Beyond 2015: time to reposition Scandinavia in global health? Glob Health Action 2013; 6: 20903.

Hasting G. Why corporate power is a public health priority. BMJ 2012;345:e5124 doi:10.1136/bmj.e5124

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Hans Rosling at Global Health - Beyond 2015
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