A new business unit at RTI International will enable the nonprofit research and development organization to better address opportunities and needs to deal with health challenges worldwide, says the veteran RTI executive who will lead the effort.

Barbara Kennedy, vice president of International Health in RTI’s International Development Group, was named Thursday as the head of the Global Health Group. It launches with more than 400 current RTI staff that have been gathered from across RTI to man the program. Some new employees already have been hired, and more hires are expected, Kennedy said.

In a Q&A with WRAL Tech Wire, Kennedy talked about the mission of Global Health.

What was the driving idea/impetus to create this new group?

Given the critical global health needs worldwide and as RTI is increasing our programs and support internationally, there was a need to elevate the importance of global health and better take advantage of our unique and vast set of expertise and skills across the Institute.

The formation of a separate Global Health Group is a reflection of the importance RTI places on the global health needs of high risk populations, especially those most vulnerable such as women and children. We will be able to consolidate our current experience and to better position the Institute and our expertise to better respond to global needs such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, maternal and child health and nutrition.

Why form a new group rather than draw on existing resources since many of the employees in this group already worked for RTI?

The Global Health Group will utilize many existing global health experts but at the same time, given new emerging global health needs, we will be expanding our expertise to include researchers and experts in areas such as nutrition, non-communicable diseases, health research and monitoring and evaluation. In order to better address some of these needs, we will plan on enhancing our staff and skills to include these new areas.

Have you added additional people from outside RTI and if so how many?

As mentioned, we are going to hire some additional staff with skills and experience to augment our expertise in infectious diseases and health systems strengthening. We will be hiring some new staff who have these additional skills and expertise. However we currently have a workforce of over 400 experts working in many countries around the world to tackle and support global health programs.

Are there plans to hire more staff and if so how many?

We will hire a few additional experts in malaria, research and evaluation, maternal child health and nutrition. As needs arise over the next few years, we anticipate adding more experts in areas such as non-communicable diseases and information and health technology. Of particular interest will be to explore the global health needs of those countries in post conflict areas who have public health needs to rebuild and train their health care personnel and systems We will place emphasis on building local capacity of public health professionals from the many places we work in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Will you be seeking new business for RTI outside of current offering? Are you planning to offer new products and services?

A major source of our support comes from the US Government however with the creation of our new group and expanded focus we will be looking for additional partners to support our work over the next couple of years. This includes increasing our reach to the private and commercial sector, foundations, and other international funding sources.

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