Global Public Health

Infectious and non-communicable diseases and epidemics are a major concern, and one of the greatest challenges to the health of major populations:

  • AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 35 million people since its discovery
  • Tobacco-related deaths are expected to account for nearly 10 percent of all deaths globally by 2030
  • Chronic diseases that result from high blood pressure account for 13 percent of all deaths globally

What is Global Health?

As the world becomes more globalized, and as international travel and commerce becomes more extensive, public health must be considered in a global context. A complex international distribution chain has also resulted in potential international outbreaks from contaminated consumer goods, poor-quality pharmaceuticals, and foodborne illneses, just to name a few.

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Infectious diseases and other health threats have prompted the United States to enhance its capability to respond to infectious diseases globally by developing a real-time infectious disease surveillance system.

Global health efforts in the U.S. help to:

  • Promote health around the world
  • Prevent the international spread of disease
  • Protect the health of the U.S. population

Another major scope of global health involves non-communicable diseases, which are among the leading causes of disability worldwide:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Substance abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Mental illness


Major Players in Global Health Programs and Initiatives

The goal of global health is to improve public health and strengthen U.S. national security through global disease detection, response, prevention, and control strategies. The work of public health professionals in global health is vital for researching and containing diseases and working toward eradication. They also craft policies that help prepare for disease outbreaks and oversee programs that educate communities about effective treatment for diseases.

For example, public health professionals actively work to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries by educating populations about HIV prevention and transmission, distributing condoms, increasing access to antiretroviral medications, and encouraging healthy behaviors that help prevent the spread of the virus.

Public health professionals work for U.S. government agencies, public health agencies, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, academic institutions, and private businesses. These public health employers may provide education, funding, resources, and technical support for global health initiatives, and many of these organizations combine their efforts and provide assistance to international organizations.

For example, the U.S.-based Global Initiative invested more than $63 billion in 2010 to help partner countries improve health outcomes through strengthened health systems.

Some of the largest supporters of global health in the U.S. include:

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Global Health Council
  • Task Force for Global Health
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Care International
  • American Red Cross
  • Save the Children
  • William J. Clinton Foundation
  • World Vision
  • National Institutes of Health


Jobs in Global Health

Global health affects everyone. Therefore, professionals in global health are directly responsible for the study and practice of population-level health interventions in communities around the world.

These specialists are focused on health within all countries, across borders, across boundaries, and across all socio-economic statuses. In other words, global health professionals are focused on health issues that transcend boundaries and that are important both domestically and internationally.

Global health professionals may study large-scale epidemics, vaccines, treatments, and other methods of mitigating the spread of these diseases. They may also collaborate with community leaders, governmental agencies, relief organizations, and other groups to promote global health and medical awareness.

Some of the most high-profile jobs in global health include:

HIV/AIDS Research Associates

HIV/AIDS research associates work with other researchers and study participants to implement an organized HIV/AIDS research agenda. Their work includes managing research grant portfolios, monitoring and evaluating grantee progress, and working with senior-level directors and researchers to design and implement modifications to grant programs.

Other job responsibilities of HIV/AIDS research associates include:

  • Assisting in the development of strategic plans that support research
  • Assisting with communications and fundraising endeavors
  • Helping design plans that raise the profile of a company or organization’s research efforts
  • Monitoring and analyzing research issues in a swiftly changing environment

International NGO Aid Workers

International aid workers in non-governmental aid organizations (NGO) serve as first responders during times of crisis. They are the frontline workers who bring relief to places devastated by war, disease, famine, or natural disasters.

They must adhere to safety and health regulations and create programs to respond to emergencies that require budgetary constraints and the work of local staff and volunteers.

Job responsibilities of international NGO aid workers in director/manager positions include:

  • Managing, monitoring, and evaluating projects
  • Conducting needs assessments
  • Organizing fundraising efforts
  • Researching and writing grant proposals and reports
  • Engaging in strategic planning for long-term development and/or disaster management to reduce the need for crisis intervention
  • Managing budgets and allocating resources
  • Recruiting, managing, and training staff and volunteers
  • Developing relationships with partner organizations
  • Implementing security procedures to ensure the safety of workers in unstable areas

Global Infectious Disease Analysts

Global infectious disease analysts are responsible for collecting, interpreting, and analyzing epidemiological data and research regarding global infectious diseases. The epidemiology of infectious diseases involves studying risk factors of infectious diseases, as well as their prevalence and incidence.

Global infectious disease analysts implement and evaluate interventions at both the individual and community levels to prevent primary infection, prevent disease-associated deaths and disabilities, and prevent diseases from developing further. These professionals are called upon to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • How can treatment best be delivered and health systems strengthened?
  • How can treatment regimens be optimized and the quality of care improved?
  • How can resistance and transmission be prevented?
  • How does poverty and disease impact global policy?

Global infectious disease analysts use the results of their research to improve healthcare delivery and to guide the design and implementation of health policies.

Degree Options for a Career in Global Health

Those interested in working in the global health field often pursue undergraduate degrees in the social sciences, public health, or in the allied health fields.

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One of the most widely held graduate degree among global health professionals is the Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in global health. Similar program concentrations include global health communications, global health program design, global health policy, and global environmental health.

An MPH in Global Health provides study in the social, economic, and political determinants of health, as well as the history of global responses to health problems. Graduates of MPH in Global Health programs possess the skills necessary to pursue careers in academia, industry, government, foundations, and non-governmental organizations.

Some of the areas frequently explored in global health graduate programs include:

  • Biomedical research
  • Chronic diseases
  • Climate change
  • Global medicines safety
  • Global trauma and violence
  • Health metrics and evaluation
  • Implementation science
  • Infectious diseases
  • Mental health
  • Women, children, and adolescent health
  • Workforce development

Courses in an MPH degree that are focused on global health include:

  • Issues in global health
  • Global health policy and delivery
  • Program evaluation in public health
  • Global health policy and delivery

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