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  • What to Study

    Global Health is a broad domain and there are multiple educational pathways you can travel.

    An area for study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasizes transnational heath issues, determinants and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes inter-disciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care.”

    Koplan et al. Towards a common definition of global health’ (2009) The Lancet, 373(9679):1993-5.

    The resources below will give you an introduction to some of the options, and help you to decide what is best for you.

    Developing your global health ‘Tool Box’

    For those of us interested in careers in global health the big challenge is how to develop a ‘tool box’ that will equip us with both the knowledge and skills to do the work we want to do. This is often an evolving process, and talking with colleagues and mentors can be a big help.

    In deciding where to take your next step in global health study, here are a few questions to consider (and a big thanks to Global Health with Greg Martin {https://www.youtube.com/user/drgregmartin):

    1. Who do I want to work for?
    2. What subject area do I want to work in?
    3. What skill sets do I need to develop?

    The Work

    This is best thought about in terms of the primary function of our potential employers (although few organisations neatly fit into just one category).

    • Funders – direct the flow of money to implementers, researchers and/or governments. E.g. Gates Foundation, World Bank, AusAID, USAID, The Global Fund, PEPFAR, GAVI, UNITAID.
    • Implementers – coordinate the work actually getting done and provide technical assistance. E.g. CHAI, MSF, ICRC, ESTHERAID, and lots of small non-government charities.
    • Researchers – providing the evidence base and technical assistance. E.g. many universities and their affiliates.
    • Governance – organising health systems and the integration of programs. E.g. national governments, WHO and other UN agencies, World Bank, IMF.
    • Advocacy – raising awareness and support for global health issues. E.g. done by many different organisations, especially in the non-government sector.
    • Product development – develop medicines and other health technologies for global needs. E.g. many non-profit product developers (NPPDs) such as PATH {program for appropriate technology in health}, DNDi {drugs for neglected disease initiative}, FIND {Foundation for Innovative New Drugs}, MMV (Medicine for Malaria Venture}.
    • Consultants – private consultants providing specialist services to many other agencies. E.g. independent practitioners or groups such as John Snow International and McKinsey.

    The Knowledge

    These are some of the big subject areas contained relevant to global health.

    • Communicable diseases: HIV, TB, Malaria, Pneumonia, Meningitis, Neglected tropical disease, Influenza, Polio, Measles, Haemorrhagic fever, Immunisation.
    • Non-communicable diseases: Cardiovascular disease, Stroke, Tobacco and Alcohol related disease, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity, Malnutrition, Mental health, Accidents and Trauma.
    • Special areas: Reproductive Maternal and Newborn, Primary health care, Human rights, Gender, Refugees and displaced, Disaster relief, Conflict, Climate change, Bioterrorism, eHeath, mHealth, Food security, Water and Sanitation, Health services, Essential medicines and diagnostics, Social determinants.

    The Skills

    These are the core skills for global health – you’ll probably need a basic understanding of all of them, but be really competent in a select few.

    • Epidemiology – investigate the distribution and cause of disease and other health factors in populations, and interpret studies.
    • Statistics – collect, analyse and interpret numerical data, especially to make inferences about a population from a representative sample.
    • Research methodology – systematically plan, execute and evaluate strategies to address questions in global health.
    • Health policy – analyse decisions, plans and actions to effect population health change, and propose alternatives.
    • Health systems – analyse the organisation of people, institutions and resources involved in the delivery of health care services to a population, and propose alternatives.
    • Health economics – analyse efficiency, effectiveness, value and the influence of behaviour in the production and consumption of health and health care.
    • Health and human rights law – understand domestic and international legal structures and how laws intersect with health.
    • Social and Behavioural sciences – understand the influences of human society and social relationships on health behaviour and outcomes (from psychology, sociology and anthropology perspectives).
    • Biological sciences – understand the science behind diseases of global significance.
    • Management sciences – plan and execute financial and management strategies and use leadership to get things done.
    • Environmental and Occupational health – understand how the natural and built environment effects and interacts with human health.
    • Demography – use statistics to study the changing structure of human populations, especially using data on births, deaths and disease incidence.
    • Ethics – appreciate the moral and philosophical principles that govern individual and institutional conduct.

    Some specific options to consider

    Global Health related study can be done at any level (Short Course, Graduate Diploma, Masters, Doctorate). So, whether you are experienced or not, highly academic or more practically inclined, you can find a course that suits you. There are also great online courses and podcasts, many of which you can access for free.

    Here is some more detail on a few courses that are frequently pursued by those interested in global health.