Global public health programs focus on a worldwide perspective. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in global health provides an educated view of potential solutions for widespread health issues. Students learn how public health differs among cultures and countries, and how these differences can be narrowed by international public health initiatives.
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What is Global Health?
Global health is a field of study that focuses on the health of the world rather than individual nations. This encompasses a wide range of issues from disease to nutrition. Researchers Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita defined global health as “collaborative trans-national research and action for promoting health for all.” The key terms in this definition are “research” and “action.”
Professionals in the field of global health spend much of their time researching health issues and opportunities, formulating potential solutions and then implementing those solutions at the national or international level.
What Is a Global Health Degree?
Many universities and colleges offer a degree or concentration in global health (also known as global public health). Courses cover a range of topics, such as epidemiology, community health, public health policy and determinants of health. A degree in global public health prepares students to research issues and formulate solutions with the goal of better health for all.
Although there is some overlap between global health and public health, the two differ in scope. Public health focuses on a specific country, community or population. Global health takes a broader approach. Researchers in global health consider how an issue or health solution will impact the world population rather than a specific population. However, both fields have similar goals: solve issues (like disease or malnutrition) and improve overall health.
Global public health is worth studying because it allows you to make an impact not only in your own country, but in the world. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website, it’s important to think of health in a global context because the world is becoming globalized through travel and commerce. Health threats emerge constantly. All countries must cooperate in their efforts to keep populations safe.
When comparing global health programs, consider curriculum, accreditation and the school’s reputation. The global health programs should offer a variety of courses in key areas like epidemiology, nutrition and health education. Graduating from a program accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) qualifies students for other public health certifications in the future.
Short courses are abbreviated courses that are delivered online and can be completed on your own time, usually in a few weeks to a few months. Some of them offer certificates of completion for students. This gives you the chance to learn the public health landscape and increase industry knowledge without committing to a full graduate degree. They are also used by professionals as part of continuing education.
Bachelor’s in Global Health Programs
A Bachelor of Science degree in global health can provide a basic understanding of the various components of public health from a worldwide perspective. The bachelor’s degree consists of three to four years of general education requirements as well as standard core courses.
During the program, students may learn about culture, history and ecology in relation to human health and wellness. While the bachelor’s level is the most common starting place for public health students, it is a stepping-stone to higher education at the master’s and even doctoral levels. Many global health programs are offered online so students from any area of the United States are able to take part in these programs.
Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Health
A bachelor’s degree in global health typically requires that students complete a minimum of 120 credit hours to graduate. The global health major has specialty options such as global health studies and global health promotion. Both of these specialties help students learn about wellness programs and initiatives throughout the world. Some sample courses are listed below.
Poverty and Global Health
This course aims to teach students how ethics, socioeconomics and geography play a role in global health. Students may discuss the disparities within different systems as well as what improvements can be made for safer and healthier environments.
Human Evolution delves into the characteristics of human development and cultural change over the course of time. Information learned during this course may then be compared to how different areas address public health needs and how these rituals affect people within society.
Disease and Evolution
Students taking this course learn how disease has progressed alongside human evolution. An in-depth look into how diseases have changed over the years is included, as well as how human change has contributed to a more sophisticated focus on good health.
Master’s in Global Health Programs
A master’s in global health degree can help students develop the research, analysis and developmental skills needed to assess the health-related status of the world. Some common master’s degrees in global health include Master of Science in Global Health and a Master of Public Health in Global Health. Through these degree programs, students can absorb information about the use of geographical-related context, social cues and economics in global health. A master’s degree is often required for advanced positions in global health, such as epidemiologist or policy analyst. Earning an MS in Global Health or an MPH with a concentration in global health can improve your job prospects. If you’re already working in the field, a master’s degree will help you gain additional skills and knowledge to succeed in your current role.
Curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Global Health
While some students choose the general track for their master’s in global health degree, others may choose specialties such as Health Metrics and Evaluation or Leadership and Management for their major. Each of these concentrations combines the important aspects of global health to provide for expertise in either management or research.
Most master’s programs consist of 42 to 60 credit-hour requirements that can be completed in one to two years. Global health programs are becoming more accessible. If students are considering an MPH with a specialization in global health, they can attend an online MPH program. The online option can be attractive to students for many reasons. Coursework may consist of classroom activities as well as written assignments pertaining to research on global public health. Some sample classes are listed below.
Global Health Challenges
This course takes a look at global health from a problematic perspective. Students in this course may study the various challenges that can arise in global health, such as cultural differences, language barriers and health priorities. Some topics discussed in this course include health care policy, health care funding and reform, and health promotion.
Biostatistics for Global Health
Students taking this course learn data-related concepts in global health. More studies and research projects include some aspects of biostatistics, which are important to determining trends and the effectiveness of treatment programs. Tendency and variability may be discussed, as well as some methods for determining population samples and their meaning. This course also outlines some of the various interpretation methods and uses for data.
Ethics for Global Health Research
Ethics for Global Health Research encourages students to follow ethical guidelines in their studies and their careers. When working with the public, it is important for students to remember that their data is based on real people. This ability to personify data can allow for a more ethical frame of mind when working with clients. The information provided in this course can help students develop a higher respect for the people they serve. This course may use case studies and discussions to bring to light potential ethical dilemmas and situations that can enlighten students on their practice in the field. Individual research projects or presentations may also be required.
Doctorate of Global Public Health Programs
Earning a Ph.D. in global public health enables students to look deeper into global health epidemics. This helps them develop a leadership perspective in the creation and implementation of health-related policies. Independent fieldwork and studies may be required in a doctorate-level program, which can be found in an online format at many universities.
Curriculum for a Doctoral Degree in Global Health
A Ph.D. in global public health usually requires two to four years of advanced studies. The credit-hour requirement can vary depending on the college, but most have 60 to 72 credit-hour programs. Some doctoral programs may require as many as 120 credit hours, according to Franklin University’s blog. After students have completed the required credit hours, they must write and defend a thesis, which can take a year or more.
Students may choose a concentration for their degree program that provides more focus on their chosen area of expertise. An example concentration is Global Health Epidemiology and Control. Depending on the concentration, courses for a Ph.D. program may differ entirely. Some of the core components of the doctoral program are included below.
Leadership and Decision-Making
This course outlines the decision-making process from a leadership point of view. Students may be instructed on how this rational model is applied in the workplace, as well as some of the challenges that can pose a risk to effective decision-making. Groupthink, conflict and resistance may also be discussed.
Qualitative Research Methods and Analysis
Students taking this course may be instructed on the proper methods of gaining insight through the use of group studies, interviews and individual discussions. Methods such as these are useful in the field of global health to determine the usefulness of programs as well as the needs of certain groups. Students may be expected to perform various qualitative research projects throughout the course.
Measurement in Global Health
In global health research, there may be various methods and tools available for measuring data. Students in this course can learn the different tactics and available measurement devices for determining statistics. This course may include case studies and sample data, which students may be expected to analyze.
Careers with a Global Public Health Degree
The global health field contains many different ideas that can potentially affect human health in the United States and abroad. Global health specialists may investigate the cause of widespread illness in foreign countries, implement policies in the United States to prevent disease, or promote wellness programs in areas that lack knowledge of everyday health practices.
What Can You Do with a Global Health Degree?
A global health degree prepares you for a variety of careers such as global health consultant, global health educator, public health policy analyst, epidemiologist or community health director. Government agencies, research facilities and even nonprofits may employ global health specialists to be a part of their teams. You could work in a medical setting like a hospital, outpatient center or community clinic; or a large national or international organization like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or the World Health Organization (WHO).
The field of global health encompasses a variety of professions, so salaries vary greatly. Level of education, job experience and other factors can influence earning potential. Here is a sampling of median annual salaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Epidemiologist – $70,990
Health educators and community health workers – $46,910
Policy analyst (categorized under political scientist) – $122,220
Global health consultant (categorized under management analyst) – $85,260
Global Health Organizations to Know
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on the overall health of the world. The WHO seeks to improve the overall function of health systems throughout the world, providing health promotion to countries and educating people about illnesses and diseases they may be susceptible to. For global health professionals, the WHO can be a helpful entity that provides continuous learning, research opportunities, and networking with other professionals.
The Carter Center
Graduates of global health programs may find it useful to join organizations in their mission to improve health awareness all over the world. The Carter Center is a great example of an organization that focuses on the need for success of global health initiatives. This program seeks to provide measurable results that are realistic and helpful for all people. When working with difficult health-related issues, this organization works to ensure that all results are reasonable and applicable for the people for whom they are created.
Information last updated May 2020