Global Health: Problems and Paradigms


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

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

What factors – biological, social, and cultural – facilitate disease emergence or reduction? What are the biological impacts of racism and how to they reduce health outcomes? 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? How can we use what we’ve learned from past attempts at disease eradication to improve current programs? Students will student global diseases from a biological and global health perspective and will focus on several case studies such as malaria, Ebola, influenza, or newly emerged threats. These diseases and others will be used to address the human relationship with microbes; the impact of racism on gene expression; the evolution of disease and resistance; vaccine development and immunization programs; ethics of public health programs; tropical diseases versus diseases of poverty; and factors that stimulate disease emergence.

Public Policy 188FS - Economics, Policy, and Global Health (SS)


Manoj Mohanan, Associate Professor of Public Policy

Imagine driving a car, blindfolded, with instructions from the backseat on what to do and they are rarely in agreement. How do you decide what to do, which instructions to rely on?  The COVID pandemic of the last year demonstrated the acute need for better data for policy making, and better practices for engaging with and communicating such data. This seminar will lead students through the basics of how data is generated and circulated (or not), how such information feeds into the policy cycle (or not) and the implications for the overall policy response. The course will draw on concepts from public policy, economics, statistics, as well as public health. We will examine where data for policy comes from, how data becomes controversial, and if there is ‘truth’. We will also look at how data from clinical vs population settings is used differently. And finally, why doesn’t data inform policy more often? How can future leaders do better?

Engineering 95FS - Engineering Design and Communication - Global Health (STS, NS, SS)

Ann Saterbak

Ann Saterbak, Professor of the Practice in the Department of Biomedical Engineering

Students work in a team to learn and apply the engineering design process to solve an open-ended, global health problem drawn from a low-income setting. In this class, students learn to apply the engineering design process to meet the needs of a client, iteratively prototype using tools and materials appropriate to the solution, work collaboratively on a team, and communicate the critical steps in the design process in written, oral, and visual formats.  Equivalent to EGR 101.

Global Health 186FS - Health System Development from a Global Perspective: Identifying the Core Elements of Equitable Healthcare Systems (SS)

Tony Fuller

Dr. Tony Fuller, Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery

Health systems worldwide all have the same goal: produce health in their population that is equitably distributed. When examining how different countries and regions of the world set up their health system, a multitude of different mechanisms meant to accomplish the same goal are discovered. Given this diversity of approaches, the answer to the question of "What are the core elements of an equitable healthcare system AND how do you implement those elements?" can be elusive. 

Students in this course will explore how health systems are structured globally by examining the core elements of each health system in depth. We will accomplish the goals of this course through a series of country-specific case studies. In addition, experts in health system development and representatives from the countries will join our discussions, speak to the students, and answer questions. Throughout the course, we will explore the different approaches to health system development, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different choices, and dive deep into current discussions in health system strengthening. Students will engage in discussions on: What does universal healthcare coverage mean, and how can it be implemented successfully? What is the role of providing universal access to surgical care in a health system? What are the benefits and detrimental impacts of international funding on countries trying to build/rebuild their healthcare system?

Students in the course will have the opportunity to expand their understanding of a health system and learn the current approaches to health system development and strengthening. No previous background in health, global health, or health systems is required. Students will only need to bring a passion for learning about how we can genuinely provide the best healthcare to all people no matter where in the world those people live.