International/global health addresses the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries (sometimes known as developing countries). Many times, it also includes the health of displaced or traveling populations. Health concerns in these populations include not only infectious and tropical diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria), but also chronic and non-infectious diseases. The field of global health addresses all the same public health issues that are domestic health concerns, like mental illness, trauma, gender-based violence, age-related illnesses and conditions. However, the solutions to these issues must be innovative to address unique challenges with international populations.
For example, 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.
Organizations working globally also prioritize finance and management in health service systems and the programs they develop. This aids in developing countries establishing and implementing infrastructure that is sustainable, effective, and efficient for improving health outcomes.
While global is in the title not all public health professionals working in global health are working abroad. Some may be working with displaced populations in their home country or as an offsite program manager. Keep in mind that many global health practitioners may not have a degree in global health but may work in the field. In addition to other public health fields global health position vary in job title and organization type. For example, global health practitioners could work as:
- In-country field consultants
- Disaster relief-support technicians
- Organization development specialist
- Program evaluator
The following agencies are typical for global work that span domestic and international settings:
- Research and academic institutions
- International agencies
- Immigrant/refugee health organizations
- Other non-governmental agencies (NGOs)
- Lending or finance agencies that do work in developing countries
- Multi-lateral agencies (such as WHO)
- Governmental agencies (USAID, in-country ministry of health, etc.)
Accredited schools of public health may offer a degree, concentration, or certificate in international/ global health. Each institution may their international/ global health program with slight nuances including specialties in an area of interest, such as:
- Health care finance and economics
- Demography and medical anthropology
- Maternal and child health/reproductive health
- Complex humanitarian emergencies
- Public nutrition and food security
- International health policy and management
- Infectious disease epidemiology and control
This list is by no means the extent to which current global health practitioners are working in. Student who attend a program without an area of study specialty have a diverse academic background for working in almost any global setting.
The field of global health is extremely competitive and rewarding. Some schools and programs as well as employers take preference in candidates who have already participated in field experience internationally or with international populations. It is encouraged for individuals interested in global work to volunteer or find internships in a developing country, either before beginning a Master in Public Health (MPH) program or as a field placement while in school.
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.
Learn More About a Career in Global Health
- Take a look at the website, “Rx for Survival,” which provides information about global health and video stories from the PBS television series of the same name.
- Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health
- American Public Health Association
- Council on Education for Public Health
- Global Health Council
- United States Agency for International Development
- Delta Omega
- National Board of Public Health Examiners
- U.S. Peace Corps