Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics

The field of global health is deeply rooted in the values of social justice, solidarity, compassion, and respect for all persons. Unless these values are understood, explored, and brought to bear in our day-to-day decisions and actions, they lack the power to guide and inspire us. Through convening, consultations, research, and education, Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE) works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to address the complex ethical issues inherent in global health work. Contact us to explore how we can partner with you.

Why "FACE?"

Dr. Bill Foege, co-founder of The Task Force, emphasized the importance of “seeing the faces” of people whose health we are working to improve. When operating at the global level, across organizational networks and over vast distances, it is too easy to see only “numbers.” FACE seeks to address this by refocusing our attention on the ethical and compassionate dimensions of global health, revealing the people behind health statistics, and renewing our commitment to compassionate engagement.

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Why Compassion?

We believe that compassion lies at the heart of global health ethics – and of global health itself. There are some who believe that global health decisions should be devoid of compassion, driven only by metrics of disease and return on investment. We believe otherwise. The problem is not that compassion distorts rational decision-making, but rather that the circle of our compassion is typically too small. Compassion allows us to recognize the “distant stranger” as connected to us and reinforces our commitment to social justice.

Abhay Bang, a pioneering physician and researcher, reminds us that, “global health decisions without compassion become bureaucratic, they become impersonal, they become insensitive.” It is crucial that those of us who work in global health cultivate compassion, allow it to infuse our work, and understand how it influences ethical decision-making. Watch to learn more from Dr. Bang.

Global health programs have an obligation not only to provide benefits to populations, but also to minimize harm to individuals. For more than 30 years, the goal of controlling and eliminating onchocerciasis (river blindness) has been threatened by medical complications in people who are infected with high levels of a related parasite, Loa loa (African Eyeworm), when treated with medicine for onchocerciasis. FACE recently collaborated with the World Health Organization and other stakeholders to help address the technical and ethical dimensions of this challenge.

The theme of compassion and global health was the subject of a meeting that we convened at The Carter Center to explore the role of compassion in their lives and work of global health leaders. From this meeting, award-winning film producer Richard Stanley created a 30-minute documentary on compassion in global health. For a more in-depth look at compassion and global health, watch the documentary here.

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If you have questions or would like to learn more about our work, please email us at

Header photo caption: In Nicaragua, community health workers make house calls in their local community to ensure that all members of the community have access to immunizations, especially flu shots. 

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