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Global Health

Overview

Public health professionals analyze and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad. Using education, development of healthy lifestyles, research and program implementation, public health professionals are agents for disease prevention and health promotion.

The United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation's public health workforce. A career in public health opens the door to diverse opportunities in a variety of sectors such as federal, private and non-governmental organizations.

What does this mean for you? It means that with a degree in public health, you’ll be in high demand – and on a career path filled with advancement opportunities.

International/global health is an area of public health that addresses the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries (sometimes known as developing countries). 

Health concerns in these countries 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.

For an interesting consideration of the issues surrounding global health, see the in-depth feature that was produced by PBS in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University and others: "Rx for Survival."

Working Conditions

Students with a master's degree in global health may find employment opportunities in a wide variety of settings, including:

  • In-country field consultants
  • Disaster relief organizations
  • Immigrant/refugee health organizations
  • Research and academic institutions
  • International agencies
  • Other non-governmental agencies (NGOs)
  • Lending agencies that do work in developing countries
  • Multi-lateral agencies (such as WHO)
  • Governmental agencies (USAID, in-country ministry of health, etc.)

Academic Requirements

Accredited schools of public health offer a concentration in international/global health. Every school offers slightly different tracks or areas of interest, such as: 

  • Health care finance and economics
  • Population policy and demography
  • Maternal and child health/primary health care/health services
  • Communication and behavioral science
  • Coping with complex emergencies
  • Mental health and medical anthropology
  • Program evaluation/information systems
  • Public nutrition and food security
  • International health policy and management
  • Infectious disease epidemiology and control
  • Research and evaluation methods
  • Health promotion

Field Experience

The field of global health is extremely competitive, and hiring preference often is given to candidates with field experience overseas. We encourage you to volunteer or find internships in a developing country, either before beginning a master's in public health (MPH) program or as a field placement while in school.

One such opportunity is through the U.S. Peace Corps. Several schools and programs of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) offer the Master's International (MI) program, which aims to provide practical public health research, management and training skills to master’s degree students for immediate application in Peace Corps service.

You can search for schools in this field on the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health's (ASPPH) website. SOPHAS is the centralized online application service for students applying to a CEPH-accredited school or program of public health. A complete list of accredited schools and programs can be found on the CEPH website.