Lori DiPrete Brown
Lori DiPrete Brown serves as the Director of Global Health and Human Ecology for the School of Human Ecology and is the founding Director of the 4W Women and Wellbeing Initiative. She teaches courses related to global health in the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies and has been a leader and collaborator with global health programs around campus for nearly 20 years. She has done work in Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Cameroon, India, Nepal, and Malawi. Author of Foundations for Global Health Practice and numerous other publications, she holds Master’s degrees from Harvard University in Theological Studies and Public Health.
An interview with Lori
How did you become interested in learning about the world?
I remember, as a young child, hearing about Cesar Chavez and the grape farmers and seeing pictures of the famine in Biafra on the news. It was clear that things could and should be different. I was born in 1961, the same year the Peace Corps was founded. I remember thinking I wanted to join the Peace Corps when I grew up. So, my initial interest was a response to the images and stories that touched me in my early life. I did end up being a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the early 80s, and have continued to wrestle with the promise, complexity and contradictions of global health and development since then.
What classes do you teach?
I teach several courses in the School of Human Ecology. One on Global Communities from Research to Practice, one on Building Civil Society and one, under development, on Child Health and Human Rights. I have been involved in global health curriculum development in a range of programs around campus over the years, and I look forward to doing more with International Studies.
What are your research interests?
I’ve done applied research related to how people make change and can change systems together with a strong emphasis on equity and addressing suffering—centering the wellbeing of children in that. That’s ranged from doing healthcare quality improvement to human rights. I approach how to achieve wellbeing through a multi-sector lens.
What motivates you to do this work?
I feel connectedness to others – there’s a certain bond that extends to people who are far away as well as to those who are nearby. It stems from a sense of responsibility and mutual care.
Are there any projects you’re particularly proud of?
I am proud of my work around bringing an action-oriented and equity lens to Global Health education.
What are some memorable experiences you’ve had while doing research?
We were doing field research in Ghana trying to create rapport with a new community and trying to understand their interpretation of wellbeing. We did not want to promise them things we couldn’t do and, toward this end, decided to share stories with them from other places we had worked to give them a sense of what we were looking for. This was a very poor community that was quite remote until very recently. I decided to share a story from the time I had spent in Ecuador. There was a woman leader in that community named Inez. She had overcome severe abuse in her marriage and ended up getting elected to public office, which was virtually unheard of where she lives. At the end in Ghana, the women I had been working with invited me back. They said, “We want you to come back and next time we want you to bring Inez.”
Have you found that your students are generally pretty interested in learning about other parts of the world?
Yes. I mostly teach elective classes, so the students are choosing the global topics. A lot of times we have stereotypes about what kinds of students are “international” and open minded. In the past, I have traveled abroad with some students who have traveled extensively – some are wonderful, some are difficult to travel with despite the experience. Meanwhile students who are going abroad for the first time are often the best ambassadors! One time, when in Ecuador, I was with a group of students who were not fluent in Spanish and travelling for the first time. We got caught in a storm and ended up at a local dairy farm. Our students introduced themselves and after about 10 minutes I could barely keep up with the translation. Our hosts were asking questions about different breeds of cows, the price of cattle feed in the U.S., and so on! The students were very knowledgeable about rural life and that allowed them to make the global connection in this setting. This is just one example, but a telling one about the many ways people form connections.