Global Health: Problems and Paradigms

  • Global Health Students at Duke Marine Lab
    Global Health Students at Duke Marine Lab
  • Global Health Students at Duke Marine Lab
    Global Health Students at Duke Marine Lab
  • Global Health Students at State Fair
    Global Health Students at State Fair
  • Global Health Students Playing Pandemic
    Global Health Students Playing Pandemic


Health is affected, for better or worse, by almost every human act. Examining human health across regions, populations, and cultures reveals wide variations in health burdens and outcomes. However, how health inequity is generated and determining how to rectify it are complex processes requiring a range of methodologies. The goal of this FOCUS program is to help students identify factors that influence global health, ask critical questions about processes and paradigms to improve health, and develop possible solutions for targeted populations.


Biology 180FS — Emerging Diseases (NS, STS)

Sherryl Broverman, Associate Professor of the Practice in Biology and Global Health

Why are some infectious diseases easier to control or eliminate than others? Where do new diseases come from? What role do microbes and parasites play in human evolution? What factors – biological, social, and cultural – facilitate disease emergence or reduction? How can we use what we’ve learned from past attempts at disease eradication to improve current programs? Students will learn the biology of global diseases caused by a range of pathogens, such as  malaria, smallpox, Ebola, influenza, and MRSA. These diseases and others will be used as case studies to address the human relationship with microbes; the evolution of disease and antibiotic resistance; vaccine development and immunization programs; ethics of public health programs; tropical diseases versus diseases of poverty; and factors that stimulate disease emergence. No previous background in biology is required.

Biomedical Engineering 195FS — Medical Instrumentation in the Developing World (STS)

Robert Malkin, Professor of the Practice in Biomedical Engineering

Medical devices have revolutionized healthcare in the developed world. Heart-lung machines, artificial joints and advanced surgical techniques have improved the length and quality of life for thousands. Yet, this technology revolution has failed to reach the developing world. Compared to the estimated 1.5 million medical devices introduced in the developed world in the last 50 years, only a few dozen pieces of medical equipment have been specifically designed to be appropriate and affordable for resource poor settings. In an age where Africans who live in mud structures and wear traditional clothing also regularly send text messages to their friends on their cell phones, we will examine and discuss the factors that make the research, design & development, introduction & marketing, maintenance and use of medical devices in resource poor settings uniquely challenging.

Global Health 189FS/Science and Society 189FS — “To Boldly Go!” Global Health and the American Way of Engagement (CCI, EI, STS, CZ)

Amy Laura Hall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Duke Divinity School

This course will help students think ethically about the assumptions and language of “Global Health” in the U.S and the ethical challenges of cross-cultural engagement. The title comes from Roddenberry's Star Trek (1966), and we will use the series to think about technology, exploration, and encounter. We will use texts that examine how culture and power in the U.S. have framed interactions with and control of people inside the U.S. and in other countries, from people carrying contagious disease to women whose bodies represent a threat to a proposed social order.  Students will analyze historical documents and images from popular culture and write close analyses identifying the underlying ethical and cultural frameworks in these documents.

Global Health 188FS — Singing the Same Song: A global perspective on patient-provider communication. (CCI, SS)

Neil Prose, Professor of Dermatology, Pediatrics, and Global Health

“When I go to see my diabetes doctor, I feel that he and I are singing the same song.” This comment, from a South African man battling chronic illness, underlines the wonderful potential of the patient-provider relationship. But the conversations between health care providers (doctors, nurses, and midwives) and patients don’t always go so well. Providers come from a world that is based in medical science and sometimes colored by implicit bias. The viewpoint of patients and their families may be shaped by their cultural understanding of their own health, the emotional impact of their illness, and their financial reality. The conversation becomes even more complex when providers and patients come from different cultures, or when well-meaning NGO's and foundations try to impose a specific model of health care communication on communities in developing countries. Through an investigation of the global health literature, along with poetry, fiction, and film we will explore the challenges of health care communication and imagine together some possible solutions.

Faculty Director

Sherryl A Broverman
Sherryl A Broverman
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Biology and Global Health
BioSci 307B
Campus Box: 
(919) 668-0228