What is Global Health?

Global Health is different from "international health" because it is inclusive of all countries (including the United States) as well as those that are developed and underdeveloped, high-, middle-, and low-income. Global health issues are shared across borders, boundaries, and socio-economic status. 85% of the world’s population is in low and middle income countries

"Global health addresses the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries that include not only infectious and tropical diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria), but also chronic and non-infectious diseases, as well as age-related illnesses and conditions. Global health also addresses mental illness and the health consequences of trauma, violence, war and displacement.  Maternal and child health is a high priority for global health professionals. This is because so much of the avoidable morbidity/mortality in the developing world is attributable to a lack of access to good prenatal and obstetric care and/or to preventable or treatable childhood illnesses, such as diarrhea and respiratory infection. Another key focus in global health is the organization, financing and management of health service systems. Global health experts help developing countries to establish and implement an effective and efficient health care infrastructure."

 (Source: Explore Health Careers)

"The rise to prominence of the term “global health” has occurred in parallel with the popularization of globalization, an enhanced awareness of common vulnerabilities, and a feeling of increased shared responsibility for inequities present in the world today (Macfarlane, Jacobs, & Kaaya, 2008). For instance, let’s consider escalating health threats posed by climate change. By recognizing the role of globalization in driving greenhouse gas emissions, we realize how greenhouse gas emissions may impact population health not just in one region, but globally. We come to recognize how efforts to combat these issues will require substantial international collaboration. Within academia, these processes have produced a rise in the usage of the term “global health” (Macfarlane et al., 2008). Public health students today are more eager and feel better equipped to tackle the issues that global health is typically associated with. The evidence base for solutions has grown, and technological advances have facilitated easier collaboration between countries."

(Source: Journal of Global Health)

What is included in Global Health?

"Global health has to embrace the full breadth of important health threats. This broad set of priorities might mean accepting that, for many countries, the epidemiological transition is a continuing process. Simultaneous effort needs to be expended on undernutrition and overnutrition, HIV/AIDS and tobacco, malaria and mental health, tuberculosis and deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. Infectious agents are communicable and so are parts of the western lifestyle (ie, dietary changes, lack of physical activity, reliance on automobile transport, smoking, stress, urbanisation). Burden of illness should be used as a criterion for global-health priority setting....Global health also addresses health issues such as tobacco control, micronutrient deficiencies, obesity, injury prevention, migrant-worker health, and migration of health workers." (Source: Lancet: Towards a Common Definition of Global Health)

Other Global Health Topics Include:

  • health care
  • health education
  • environmental effects on health
  • infectious disease
  • mental health
  • health inequalities
  • medical sequelae of natural disaster or political violence
  • indigenous healing practices
  • reproductive health

How does improved global health help the United States?

"The health of the U.S. population can be affected by public health threats or events across the globe. Recent examples of this include the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2009 spread of novel H1N1 influenza. Improving global health can improve health in the United States and support national and global security interests by fostering political stability, diplomacy, and economic growth worldwide.

U.S. investments in improving health in developing countries provide significant public health benefits within the United States. Many global health issues can directly or indirectly impact the health of the United States. Outbreaks of infectious diseases, foodborne illnesses, or contaminated pharmaceuticals and other products, cannot only spread from country to country, but also impact trade and travel. The United States can also learn from the experiences of other countries. Standard health measures of life expectancy and chronic disease, including depression among adults, can be compared to other Organization for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. For those countries with better health outcomes than the United States, health agencies within the United States can use these comparisons to identify ways to improve the Nation’s public health."


How are Global Health and Public Health at UC San Diego different?


"Global health has areas of overlap with the more established disciplines of public health and international health. All three entities share the following characteristics: priority on a population-based and preventive focus; concentration on poorer, vulnerable, and underserved populations; multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches; emphasis on health as a public good and the importance of systems and structures; and the participation of several stakeholders.

The global in global health refers to the scope of problems, not their location. Thus like public health, but unlike international health, global health can focus on domestic health disparities as well as cross-border issues. Global health also incorporates the training and distribution of the health-care workforce in a manner that goes beyond the capacity-building interest of public health."

Global Health understands that health challenges stem from many factors well outside of disease – ecological, cultural, institutional, historical, evolutionary, social and technological. 

                                      Global Health                                                                   Public Health 


   Health issues that transcend national boundaries

   Focus on specific communities or countries





   Prevention and clinical care



   Health equity among nations

   Health equity within a nation or community


   Highly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary

   Multidisciplinary, particularly with health and social sciences


(Source: Lancet 2009; 373: 1993-95)

What can I do with a B.A. in Global Health?

The Global Health Program's unique research, writing, and field experience opportunities make both the BA and Minor excellent preparation for advanced training in health professions including; 
  • medicine, psychiatry, dentistry, nursing, public health, and pharmacy, as well as graduate training toward the Ph.D. and research or teaching careers in health sciences, medical social sciences, health policy and health law, environmental studies, or medical humanities.  

Resources for exploring Global Health