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Florida State University College of Medicine students in Nicaragua

What is Global Health?

The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), defines global health as, "an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide."



Comparison of Global, International, and Public Health*
  Global Health International Health Public Health
Geographical reach Focuses on issues that directly or indirectly affect health but transcend national boundaries Focuses on health issues of countries other than one's own, especially those of low-income and middle-income Focuses on issues that affect the health of the population of a particular community or country
Level of cooperation Development and implementation of solutions often requires global cooperation Development and implementation of solutions usually requires binational cooperation Development and implementation of solutions does not usually require global cooperation
Individuals or populations Embraces both prevention in populations and clinical care of individuals Embraces both prevention in populations and clinical care of individuals Mainly focused on prevention programmes for populations
Access to health Health equity among nations and for all people is a major objective Seeks to help people of other nations Health equity within a nation or community is a major objective
Range of disciplines Highly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary within and beyond health sciences

Embraces a few disciplines but has not emphasised multidisciplinarity

Encourages multidisciplinary approaches, particularly within health sciences and with social sciences


 *Kaplan, J., et al. "Towards A Common Definition of Global Health."  Lancet 373 (2009)


Why is Global Health Important?

Global Health affects all of us.

  • Travel and Migration
    • You can reach any area of the globe within 24 hours, bringing infections.
    • Over 500M cross national boundaries each year by plane alone.
  • Inadequate Public Health Infrastructure
    • Bioterriorism, Zika virus, ebola and other problems highlight challenges in the United States and many other systems to address catastrophic scenarios.
  • Urbanization
    • Global economy and migration to cities cause overcrowding, water and sanitation problems, pollution, and other health risks.
  • Globalization of Trade
    • Varied or absent regulations
      • Increases risk from pesticides, industrial toxins, and hazardous wastes. 
      • Lack of strict export safety on foods and products.
  • Aging and Chronic Diseases
    • By 2025, more than 800 million people will be over 65 and two-thirds will be in low-income countries.
    • Chronic diseases associated with aging and the costs of treating these will deplete already limited health resources of poor and rich nations alike.