About us

Our Story

Many people around the world suffer from enormous health inequities, and there is increasing recognition that the traditional way of educating health workers is part of the problem

In December 2008, a group of innovative health workforce educators met to share experiences and explore collaboration with the aim to increase the impact of academic institutions on community health and the development of more equitable health systems.

Located in underserved and rural regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia, the founding members of THEnet: Training for Health Equity Network came together through a research project that sought out innovators identifying successful strategies to address health workforce shortages.


THEnet envisions a world of healthy vibrant communities where all people attain the highest level of health. THEnet and its partners contribute to health equity through health workforce education, research, and service, based on the principles of social accountability and community engagement.


THEnet mobilizes schools around the world to use our resources and Framework for Socially Accountable Health Workforce Education

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THEnet and its partner institutions developed a powerful, practical and comprehensive tool to help schools align the training of health workers with community needs- The Framework for Socially Accountable Health Workforce Education, or The Framework. The Framework has been adopted by schools in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Iran, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan, and the United States, with more schools signing on every year.

Instead of merely counting how many graduates they produce, socially accountable schools assess whether the competencies of their graduates are aligned with community needs. Instead of only tallying how many articles their researchers have published, they assess the impact these articles have had on policy. And instead of basing their student recruitment policies on high test scores alone, they recruit students who are most likely to stay in communities where health professionals are scarce – and urgently needed.


Engaging with and mobilizing communities is a core function of socially accountable schools. In conflict-ridden Mindanao, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine works to improve health services in one of the poorest regions of the Philippines. So:

  • First-year medical students undertake a survey to assess the health situation of their assigned village or Barangay.
  • Second-year student findings are shared with the community and the students help the community develop a plan to solve these problems.
  • Solutions include:
    • Collecting community funding to pay for transportation of pregnant woman to give birth at clinics
    • Proper garbage disposal through a zero-waste management program and
    • Home vegetable gardens.


Not only have infant and maternal mortality rates fallen significantly in the region since their program was established, but faculty and students have worked with their communities to help them take charge of their own health, and, as a result, health practices are changing.



THEnet transforms the way institutions train their students for health careers consistent with community needs

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THEnet is working to transform health workforce education to a socially accountable model that is moving the world toward health equity. It’s a model that encourages students, including those from marginalized groups, to pursue careers in primary care and to practice in underserved and rural communities.


  • A periodic visit by a health worker can make all the difference between life and death across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and among vulnerable populations on every continent. And yet a worldwide shortage of appropriately trained health workers and their highly uneven distribution perpetuates these inequities.
  • At least 400 million people globally do not have access to essential health services. When entire communities lie beyond the reach of health care, more women die in childbirth, more newborns perish before they’ve taken their first breath, and more children succumb to preventable diseases.
  • There is increasing recognition that the traditional way of educating the health workforce is part of the problem. A growing body of evidence has shown that socially accountable health workforce education, tools, and strategies can help reverse the shortage and improve the distribution and performance of health workers worldwide.

Learning from the successes of schools that are already producing a fit-for-purpose health workforce in both high- and low-income countries, THEnet is promoting innovative strategies, building capacity and fostering collaboration between diverse actors, sectors, and disciplines and advocating for change, thus seeding the growth of healthy, resilient communities worldwide.



THEnet advocates for socially accountable health workforce education, evidence-based research and universal human rights

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Through research and advocacy, THEnet is amplifying the voices of communities in need and the innovative schools and health workers that serve them. THEnet believes that the socially accountable model for health workforce education is making a difference. Health service delivery is becoming more equitable as a result, and communities are becoming healthier.

THEnet is amassing a growing body of evidence showing that

  • When students are recruited from lower-income communities and trained there, a high proportion of them return to practice in their communities or similar low resource areas and
  • Who receives training is just as important as how they are trained. Recruiting students from underserved communities is proving to be a major strategy in improving access to health services through a more equitable distribution of health practitioners.

Demonstrating the success stories of social accountability, we continue to influence the global dialogue on health workforce training. THEnet has made significant contributions to key policy documents issued by, among others, the

  • World Health Organization
  • United Nations
  • The World Bank, and
  • The Lancet’s Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century.

As academic institutions adopt the recommended changes, and as their graduates begin to practice in formerly neglected communities, studies show that health improves, sometimes quite markedly.



THEnet cultivates enduring partnerships across sectors, organizations, academic institutions, health cadres, and communities in need

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THEnet cultivates a community-engaged approach to health workforce education by gathering and synthesizing successful strategies from its partner institutions.

Community engagement is all about mutuality. Research has shown that a community-engaged approach to the training of health workers benefits the entire health system. To help its schools produce a fit-for-purpose workforce comprised of the health workers the world needs, communities must be engaged from the outset. Patients and health workers learn from each other. Families, neighbors, community members, and health leaders are ideally positioned to help assess needs and set priorities.

The first questions a school might ask of community members is:

  • What are you looking for in a health worker?
  • How can we best meet your needs?

Based on collaboratively identified needs, including social determinants affecting health, students may partner with communities to plant vegetable gardens or develop cottage industries to generate income.

Because of community engagement, students at THEnet’s partner schools receive training in a wider range of competencies than do their counterparts at traditional institutions. At these innovative schools, students understand that where and how people live has a direct impact on health. This kind of education translates into meaningful, compassionate care and service.

Academic-community partnerships also go far toward countering the passivity that is often seen among people living in neglected communities steeped in long-standing poverty. A community-engaged approach makes for strong communities engaged in their own health, working right alongside faculty, students and graduates.



THEnet reaps a harvest of co-creating solutions and mutual support that improve the health of children and families worldwide

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At a time when globalization has created a high degree of interdependence among national health systems, THEnet aims to place health equity, social accountability, and community engagement at the heart of health workforce education everywhere.

THEnet focuses on the role of education to affect meaningful changes in health disparities by mobilizing technological, intellectual, and political resources. THEnet fosters a wealth of partnerships that are taking root and blossoming into lasting relationships among all stakeholders in the system. And THEnet advocates for the transformation of health workforce education, engaging governments and policy-setting institutions at the regional, national, and global levels.

When schools are well resourced, outcome-oriented, and socially accountable, they produce the health workers the world needs. They also become hubs of research, analysis, and innovation.

Building on the success of our founding members to train a fit-for-purpose workforce for underserved areas and communities, THEnet supports reform by:

  • Gathering evidence
  • Developing the capacity of schools in disadvantaged regions and
  • Advocating for socially accountable, community-engaged and results-oriented health workforce education.

THEnet is promoting a vision of healthy communities that relies on the cooperation of many sectors of society, including those responsible for education, service delivery, labor, transportation, housing, nutrition, sanitation, and financing.

Together with our partners, we are watering the seeds of change, overseeing their growth, and reaping a harvest of healthier, more resilient communities around the world.



Institutional Partners
Research Partners
Collaborating Partners

People Behind THEnet

Kathy Cahill, MPH Kathy Cahill, MPH

Kathy Cahill, MPH

Board Member

Kathy Cahill, MPH is a leader in global health with experience in policy and strategy development, monitoring and evaluation, relationship management and program development and implementation.

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From April of 2014 to October 2018, she was Vice President International Development at PATH. PATH is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and implementing transformative innovations in health that safe lives and improve health in low resource countries. She leads a team of over 400 health professionals in over 20 countries focused on using an array of innovations to strengthen health systems, encourage healthier behaviors, and increase access to affordable solutions in HIV/Tb, Maternal Child Health, Nutrition and Reproductive Health.

Prior to her position at PATH ( January 2005-January 2010) she was Senior Partner and Founder of AHIMSA Group, a global health company focused on health systems strengthening, policy development, program assessment, monitoring and evaluation. She has worked with academic institutions, philanthropy, global NGOs, Ministries of Health and WHO. Prior to starting her own company, she was Deputy Director of Integrated Health Solutions for Global Health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In her five years at the Gates Foundation, she was senior program officer for tobacco control, health systems strengthening, human resource development for health and special projects. She was promoted to Deputy Director for Integrated Health Solutions in 2008 where she managed a portfolio of Nutrition, Maternal Child Health, Reproductive Health and Immunizations. Prior to working at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1983 – 2005) in Atlanta, GA. Her career at CDC included Division Director for Immunization Service Delivery where she was responsible for implementation of a White House initiative on increasing childhood immunizations rates in the US. She followed her success in immunization to the CDC Directors office where she was appointed Director for Policy, Planning an Evaluation for the agency. In that position, she served three CDC Directors over eight years in policy development and analysis; program monitoring and evaluation; and strategy formulation for the agency.

Afaf Meleis Afaf Meleis

Afaf Meleis

Board Member

Afaf I. Meleis, PhD, DrPS(hon), FAAN is the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Professor of Nursing and Sociology, and Director of the school’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership.

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She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in the UK, and the American Academy of Nursing; a member of the Institute of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health; board member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health; and co-chair of the IOM Global Forum on Innovation for Health Professional Education and the Harvard-Penn-Lancet Commission on Women and Health. She is also President and Counsel General Emeriti of the International Council on Women’s Health. Dr. Meleis’ research scholarship is focused on the structure and organization of nursing knowledge, transitions and health, and global immigrant and women’s health. She’s authored more than 175 journal articles in social sciences, nursing, and medical journals; 16 books, numerous monographs, proceedings, and policy white papers. She has mentored hundreds of students, clinicians, and researchers from Thailand, Brazil, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Colombia, Korea, and Japan. Dr. Meleis is the recipient of numerous awards, honorary international professorships, and honorary doctorates. Among them she holds a Doctorate of Medicine from Linköping University, Sweden; a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Alicante, Spain; and the distinguished Honorary Citizenship of Oporto, Portugal. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Alexandria, Egypt, a master’s in nursing, a master’s in sociology and a PhD in medical and social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Marilyn A. DeLuca Dr. Marilyn A. DeLuca

Dr. Marilyn A. DeLuca

Board Member

Founder/President of Global Health-Systems-Philanthropy and a professional nurse, Dr DeLuca held clinical, teaching and management roles in critical care and top leadership positions in large affiliated medical centers.

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As an educator, she mentors undergraduate, pre-service health sciences and medical students, and serves as faculty to graduate, post-doc and multi-disciplinary professionals in global health. Dr DeLuca earned a PhD (Wagner NYU, 2000) with concentrations in global health policy and comparative health systems and has expertise in global and domestic health systems; health workforce; reform; health delivery and payment models, and quality. DeLuca advises an array of health sector stakeholders including governments, multilaterals, academia and others. An adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Medicine and Associate Professor, College of Nursing, NYU, she frequently serves as faculty at global health symposia, including delivering papers at the 3rd Global Forum for HRH, Recife (2013); the Prince Mahidol Conference, Bangkok (2014; 2015); National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine-Continuing Professional Development in Global Health, Washington, DC (2017), and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (2018). She was an invited Visiting Scholar at the College of Nursing, NYU (2010-2011) where she focused on multidisciplinary global health workforce development and planed and led the multi-day Global Summit: Strengthening 21st Century Health Systems: Investing Strategically in the Health Care Workforce attended by over ninety educators, global health leaders, funders and students.

Richard J. Deckelbaum Richard J. Deckelbaum

Richard J. Deckelbaum

Board Member

Richard J. Deckelbaum, MD, CM, FRCP(C), received his education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He now directs the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University where he holds professorships in nutrition, pediatrics, and epidemiology.

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In addition to his ongoing basic research in cell biology of lipids, cardiovascular diseases, and issues of human nutrition, he has been active in translating basic science findings to practical application in different populations. Dr. Deckelbaum has published over 400 research and other publications. Recent research in Dr. Deckelbaum’s research group focuses on defining mechanisms whereby acute administration of omega-3 glycerides provides tissue “protection” after acute injury in different organs including heart and brain. Dr. Deckelbaum also coordinates programs related to the effects of varying nutrient intakes on expression of cardiovascular risk factors in populations of different genetic backgrounds in both national and international studies. He has chaired task forces for the American Heart Association, the European Atherosclerosis Society, WHO, the Institute of Medicine, the March of Dimes, and has led and/or served on advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, RAND Corporation, and the USA National Academies of Science, as well as the US Dietary Guidelines Committee. Dr. Deckelbaum has directed novel “econutrition” task forces and activities integrating health, nutrition, ecology and agriculture. Dr. Deckelbaum is the facilitator and co-founder of African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium (ANSRC) which brings together academic and research institutions from across the East African region, with the goal of building PhD training programs in basic laboratory research in nutritional and agricultural sciences.

Paul Grand’Maison Paul Grand’Maison

Paul Grand’Maison

Board Member

Paul Grand’Maison, MD, MSc, FCFPC, FCAHS, FRCPC (hon), CQ (MD : Medical Doctor. MSc: Master in Sciences. FCFPC: Fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. FCAHS: Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

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FRCPC (hon): Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada (honorary). CQ: Knight of Quebec national Order.)

Paul Grand’Maison has been a full-time faculty member at the Université de Sherbrooke Faculty on Medicine and Health Sciences from 1976 to 2017 where he has held many leadership positions: Office of Medical Education (1984-1989 and 1996-2000), Department of Family Medicine (1988-1996), Deanship for Undergraduate Medical Education (2002-2011), Global Health Office (2012-2017). He headed Sherbrooke WHO/PAHO Collaborating Center from 2001 to 2014. He has significantly contributed to the evolution of medicine and Family Medicine, in the province of Quebec, in Canada and internationally. He is recognized at these levels as an expert and leader in curriculum reform and management, faculty development, human resource development, distributed medical education, global health and social accountability of medical schools. He has collaborated with THEnet since 2012 and represents Sherbrooke Faculty of Medicine at the deans ‘steering committee. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including a Doctorate honoris causa form Laval University (Quebec, Canada) and the AFMC-Charles-Boelen International Award on Social Accountability.


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Quality healthcare is a human right. Yet, more than 1 billion people won’t ever see a health worker. THEnet believes that all families should have access to quality health services. Better health outcomes begin with the education that health workers receive. That’s why THEnet is committed to ensuring that health professional education is people centered and tailored to meets the needs of communities.

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