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Embracing Transformative Experiences: Reflections from LonWHO '24

As a young public health professional, my journey has been defined by a strong commitment to bring tangible change in the lives of individuals, particularly within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Through my extensive work in diverse and challenging environments, I have directly witnessed the stark health disparities and systemic hurdles that communities encounter while seeking healthcare. Each encounter has served as a profound lesson, shaping my comprehension of the intricacies of public health and reinforcing my dedication to catalysing positive transformation.

In recent years, my focus has been exclusively on strengthening health systems in India, including conducting assessments of health technologies, which introduced me to the transformative potential of digital health solutions in healthcare. I eagerly applied to participate as a Member Delegate in LonWHO '24 when I learned that Digital Health was the theme for this year's simulation. Representing Nepal, I delved into the country's digital health policies and WHO guidelines, essential for drafting a position paper that outlined Nepal's stance on Digital Health.

In the words of Albert Einstein, "The only source of knowledge is experience." As I embarked on my journey to represent Nepal at LonWHO '24, I carried with me invaluable lessons gleaned from my real-world experiences in public health practice. Little did I know that this simulation would not only deepen my understanding of Digital Health challenges but also equip me with essential skills in global health diplomacy, leadership, and negotiation.

 "The only source of knowledge is experience." - Albert Einstein

Recognising the challenges faced by Nepal in adopting Digital Health solutions, I focused on the subthemes of Digital Health Financing and Digital Divide. During committee sessions, I emphasised 'Digital Health Literacy' among healthcare workers and communities, ensuring representation of similar issues faced by other LMICs. LonWHO '24 underscored the critical importance of diplomacy in global health decision-making. Securing support from other Member Delegates required navigating intricate geopolitical relationships between countries and aligning with the priorities of international organizations. The nuances of multilateral negotiations highlighted the pivotal role of diplomacy in shaping global health policies, affirming Einstein's adage that true knowledge is derived from lived experiences.

Each committee was composed of Member Delegates representing diverse countries, each with its unique set of priorities. As a Member Delegate, it was crucial to discern opportunities for aligning these priorities and fostering collaboration with Member Delegates from other countries. It was integral for the Member States to get Seals of Approval from the representatives of organisations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, and PATH, among many more. I felt this was the most challenging part of the conference, where Member Delegates competed with each other to get the seals of approval on their resolutions from these agencies. I was surprised to find that many diplomatic discussions and agreements unfolded not within formal committee sessions, but rather during informal moments like coffee and lunch breaks. On a lighter note, it reminded me of the adage that "food brings people together."

"Food brings people together."

Leading diverse teams and fostering collaboration were central to our success in navigating the challenges presented during the simulation. LonWHO was a platform where ideas flourished, alliances formed, and solutions emerged through consensus-building and negotiation. Drafting resolutions on prioritising investments towards addressing Digital Health Literacy among healthcare workers and communities highlighted to me the importance of skills required to lead diverse teams, foster collaboration, and cultivate inclusivity in achieving shared goals.

The conference featured an impressive lineup of speakers from academia, public health practitioners, digital health entrepreneurs, and health tech industry, providing participants with a holistic view of the global digital health landscape. I was particularly inspired by Dr. Anders Nordström, where he shared key insights into the domain of Global health and personal anecdotes from his time as Assistant Director General at WHO. His emphasis on the importance of passion and clear personal values for navigating public health challenges resonated deeply with me.

In conclusion, LonWHO '24 has been a pivotal experience that has profoundly shaped my understanding of global health diplomacy, leadership, and collaboration. Through engaging in diplomatic negotiations, navigating challenges, and drafting resolutions, I have gained invaluable skills that will undoubtedly inform my future endeavours in public health. The conference not only provided a platform for learning and growth but also fostered meaningful connections with like-minded professionals from around the world. As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the transformative power of experiential learning and the importance of embracing opportunities for professional development. I extend a heartfelt invitation to my fellow public health professionals in in India to participate in future LonWHO events, where together, they can continue to drive positive change in global health.

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