India faces daunting public health challenges. Maternal and infant mortality rates are high. Malaria and tuberculosis persist stubbornly. Noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer are prevalent and increasing. And many—especially the poor—lack good and affordable health care.

Keshav Desiraju, secretary of health for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) faculty gave an overview of India’s current and future public health challenges at an HSPH seminar on May 9, 2013. Introducing Desiraju, HSPH Dean Julio Frenk said he is described by colleagues “as a visionary and a man of action, with enormous capacity to articulate complex ideas.”

Desiraju’s talk featured the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and HSPH, which formalizes a closer working relationship between the School and the ministry on a variety of public health issues. Ties between HSPH and India are longstanding, said Wafaie Fawzi, chair of the HSPH Department of Global Health and Population (GHP).

“Many of us at the School—faculty, students, and staff—have had the privilege of working with institutions and partners in India for mutual benefit on issues of critical importance to global health such as the impact of urbanization, the effectiveness of health interventions, and issues around nutrition research and training,” Fawzi said.

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