Postgraduate students win international global health case study competition

A deadly virus caught from camels has broken out at a major football championship. Should the games be cancelled, postponed or continued? The response plan of a UNSW team to this scenario was a winner.


A team of UNSW postgraduate students from three Faculties has won an international competition on global health with their response to a hypothetical scenario where a deadly virus breaks out at the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament in Qatar.

The five-member team, from Medicine, Business, and Arts and Social Sciences, recommended the games go ahead, despite workers and spectators theoretically dropping dead from a flu-like illness at the Opening Ceremony of the high-profile sporting event.

Their solution, based on intensive research and several late nights of brainstorming in the UNSW library during the week-long competition, was presented in a 12-minute video. It won them top honours in the annual 2018 International Emory Global Health Video Case Competition against more than 30 other leading universities around the world.

“It was a lot of fun participating and very exciting to win,” said team leader, Jason Alacapa, a doctor from the Philippines who is studying for a dual Master of Public Health and Master of Health Management.

“It helped us learn and apply concepts, theories and frameworks for solving public health issues. Each of our five team members had different expertise in areas such as medicine, education, economics and mathematical modelling. By combining our strengths, we were able to crack the case and win.

“This applies in the real world, too. Tackling global health challenges requires interdisciplinary collaboration,” he added.


Clockwise from top left: Robert Leong, Febe Haryanto, Sostenis Pasang, Jason Alacapa, John Paul delos Trinos

The other four students in UNSW’s inaugural team to enter this international competition were: John Paul delos Trinos, dual Master of Public Health and Master of Health Management; Robert Leong, PhD student in Health Economics and Public Health Modelling; Febe Haryanto, Master of Commerce; and Sostenis Pasang, dual Master of Education and Master of Educational Leadership.

The UNSW team analysed legal, economic and ethical issues such as the cost to Qatar’s reputation and economy from cancelling or postponing the tournament, the availability of health resources to cope with the high number of patients, and the diplomatic fallout for the country if the outbreak became a pandemic.

They investigated a wide range of factors to develop their response, including geospatial technology to map the spread of the virus and trace contacts, ruling out terrorism, and organising containment strategies.

They assessed the legality of banning travel for migrant workers at the stadium, who had caught the virus from camels and brought it to Qatar in this hypothetical case.

They also recommended the use of special facial masks, developed psychological nudges to encourage people to wash their hands, such as painted footsteps leading to the hand-sanitising areas, and developed an advertising campaign: 'Win the Game against the FIFA Virus'.


Image: UNSW winners of the 2018 International Emory Global Health Video Case Competition