Public Health Around the World: An In-Depth Exploration of Global Health

Published on: Mar 17, 2024

The idea of a shrinking world– where people are more connected than ever– is evident in many parts of everyday life. If it wasn’t already apparent, the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized just how important it is to consider health through the lens of this increasingly globalized world. 

What is global health, and why is it crucial in public health?

Global health is the practice of public health and medicine with the goal of promoting health for all people worldwide1. Global health is crucial in public health. People around the world face similar health issues that require collaborative interventions. When we study health beyond national borders, we can identify resource disparities, observe illness trends, and fight health inequity.

This article will introduce you to the field of global health by exploring key concepts, historical case studies, and insight into the future of global health. Additionally, it will outline the first steps of pursuing a career in global health.

Key Concepts in Global Health

How does global promote health equity and address health disparities on a global scale? 

As public health professionals, our goal is to achieve health equity, which the CDC defines as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health”.2 Global health focuses on reducing health disparities by promoting access to healthcare, regardless of geographical location or income. Working towards global health security, “the existence of strong and resilient public health systems that can prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats”,3 requires the collaboration of many different key organizations and governing bodies across the world. 

Take a mosquito-borne illness like malaria, for example. This is an infectious disease that disproportionately affects countries in tropical climates, many of which have underdeveloped public health systems4. Global agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) work with national governments to collect data and track these diseases5. This information is then used to identify problematic outbreaks and deploy clinical care to low resource areas.

“Think Global, Act Local”: The Impact of Global Health on Local Communities 

Although global health’s scope is broad, policies and interventions are ultimately implemented locally. Many factors impact how health interventions are delivered– including languages, cultures, and climates. Interventions should consider the local factors that can affect implementation on the ground. Community health workers are instrumental in establishing trust and providing health education to their local communities with shared culture and language.

Ethics and cultural considerations in global health initiatives 

There are many examples of global health and human services initiatives that benefit the communities for which they were intended. But global health also has a history of ethical failings that have contributed more harm than good6. Common ethical codes, the most notable being the legally binding  International Health Regulations, help ensure that initiatives respect diverse cultures and uphold ethical standards7.

The Significance of Global Health in Public Health

What are the key challenges in managing infectious diseases globally?

There are emerging modern challenges when it comes to managing infectious diseases globally, including8:

Aging Populations:

The number of people 65+ is projected to double by 2050, and the population of people over 80 is growing even faster9. Public health needs to prepare for an older, more immunocompromised population that is highly susceptible to morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases.

Increasing Mobility and Migration:

Whether for leisure or migration, people are traveling further and more frequently than ever before. Increased mobility introduces challenges to containing outbreaks and setting regulations.


Since 2007, the majority of the world’s population has lived in urban centers, and this trend is projected to increase over time10. This will come with increasing challenges in infectious disease control as human contact and proximity increase.

Emerging Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR):

Antimicrobials, which are drugs commonly used to treat infectious diseases, represent a challenging unintended consequence of modern medicine. These drugs treat many infections, but over-prescription and over-use is creating stronger, drug-resistant strains of diseases. Bacterial AMR was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million global deaths in 201911. A global fund will be needed to monitor and research AMR, develop new vaccines, and fund other prevention innovations.

Climate Change:

Increased natural disasters are creating global health issues related to climate change. This includes spikes in waterborne illnesses due to flooding and severe storms12.

How does global health contribute to sustainable development?

Sustainable development "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"13. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, lists Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for global partnerships between developed and developing countries14. The SDGs acknowledge the importance of addressing the social determinants of health to promote improved physical and mental health for all people.

SDGs also emphasize the importance of addressing another emerging global health threat– noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). According to the CDC, deaths from NCDs, including heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, now exceed those caused by all communicable diseases combined15. Furthermore, the majoiry of premature deaths due to NCDs occur in middle and low income countries. Ending poverty-related illness must be achieved by improving education, reducing inequality, and spurring economic growth, all while preserving the earth’s resources. A global health initiative is an an actionable way to impact the social determinants of health and work towards achieving these goals. 

Sustainable development, climate change, and global health 

Climate change has many impacts on health. Directly, climate change increases the risk of illness and death as weather-related catastrophic events increase in frequency and magnitude16. The global health workforce will be crucial in climate crisis response, especially in developing countries with weak health infrastructure.

Collaboration and Partnerships in Global Health Emergency Response

As diseases spread faster than ever, global health emergency response teams play an important role in delivering support to impacted areas. The COVID-19 pandemic was arguably the most pertinent example of global health collaboration of our lifetime.   

Partnerships between governments, NGOs, and private sector organizations strengthen the collective response to global health challenges.For example, Gavi is a global vaccine alliance, bringing together public and private sector organizations worldwide to increase equitable and sustainable use of vaccines17. Gavi has been instrumental in promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, the World Bank established the pandemic fund to strengthen future global responses18.

Considering a Career in Global Health

If you are interested in a career in global health, you’ll want to read up on the educational requirements, skills, work opportunities, and challenges: 

Educational pathways and qualifications

Your educational path will be pretty similar to other public health students– and a Master of Public Health degree can help you achieve your goals. However, you’ll want to ensure that the program you choose has a major or degree option related to global health. This will allow you to take courses that focus on global health.


Delivery Platforms

Program Length

Unique Features

Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health19

Online Master of Science in Global Health

12 months (full time) or 24 months (part time)

100% Online Program

No GRE Required

Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine20

Master of Public Health & Tropical Medicine

4-5 academic semesters (full time)

Specialized focus on tropical medicine

Essential skills for a career in global health

Beyond formal education, you need skills that will help you thrive in a diverse workspace, as most global health spaces are. These include:

  • Cross-cultural communication:

    This can include knowledge of local customs, norms, and languages, depending on the regions you want to work with. Language fluency can show respect and competency for a specific place you want to work, especially if you are working with teams outside of the United States. For work in Latin American countries, the ability to speak Spanish is a desired skill, and French is spoken in many West African countries.

  • Adaptability:

    Global health initiatives often require strategizing to deliver health care solutions in low-resource settings. You may have to be able to adapt to limitations due to technology, communication differences, and financial resources.

What roles and opportunities exist within the field of global health?

With an MPH focused on Global Health, you can pursue many roles and opportunities:

Example Industries


Sample Position Title

Sample Job Duties

Example Organizations

Nonprofit, NGO, and Public Sector

Program Manager

Facilitate initiatives to advance malaria eradication goals

Collaborate with leadership and team to implement annual resource plans, in line with foundation guidance

Partners in Health

John Snow International

Federal/National Institute

Technical Advisor

Surveil classified public health emergencies including outbreaks and communicating epidemiologic concerns across teams



Example Public Health Core Competencies

Core Competency

Sample Position Title

Sample Job Duties

Example Organization(s)


Global Health Research and Evaluation Specialist

Collecting and analyzing data through literature review and using both qualitative and quantitative research methods


Environmental Health

Senior Researcher Climate Change

Find strategic research and evaluation opportunities

American Institutes for Research

To explore more global health careers:

  • Check out the official websites of health institutes, including the NIH21 and CDC22.

  • Do a web search for local talks, webinars, podcasts and upcoming events related to global health.

What are the challenges and rewards associated with a career in global health?


  • Navigating Global Affairs:

    Working internationally means that global health policy, law, and safety differences must be considered.

  • Gaining Experience:

    Getting your foot in the door in global health can be challenging, especially when employers have language fluency preferences and require previous experience working in an international setting. To prepare, choose a global health program that will allow you to seek this kind of experience while in school.

  • Travel:

    Depending on your lifestyle, regularly traveling internationally can be challenging.


  • Making a difference in vulnerable populations:

    Global health emphasizes supporting vulnerable populations, regardless of where they happened to be born. Supporting the true mission of health equity can be very rewarding.

  • Becoming a global citizen:

    Working in an international context can expand your worldview and make you a better public health practitioner, no matter where you practice.

Global Health in Action: Case Studies

Highlighting Successful Global Health Interventions 

The eradication of Smallpox is one of the greatest global health successes in history. 

The video below gives an overview of the global campaign to eradicate smallpox:

While polio has not been eradicated, it’s prevalence has been diminished significantly due to global health vaccination campaigns:

Global Health Hero Profiles

Individuals in global health–including researchers, doctors, policymakers, and advocates– can inspire us. Their stories show how diverse and impactful global health work can be. The videos below highlight individuals who have made a difference in global health.

Advocacy and Policy Influence

The role of advocacy in shaping global health policies

Garnering the support of global decision-makers such as the delegates of the World Health Assembly is an essential part of ensuring global health initiatives are implemented. Advocates play a large role in ensuring global health solutions reach their intended populations23. This work is exemplified by  the Global Health Council, which focuses on the power of advocacy, increasing access to resources, and mobilizing support for international health agendas24.

Strategies that advocates use to influence international health agendas include:

  • Creating Working Groups to Influence Specific Policies:

    The Global Health Council has advocacy working groups that create a network of people passionate about global health looking for opportunities to take action.

  • Speaking out:

    During the height of the AIDS epidemic, civil action was instrumental in putting political pressure on governments, media, and the pharmaceutical industry25. The establishment of World AID day in 1988 commemorates the efforts of activists and advocates26.

  • Leveraging Data and Evidence:

    Numbers and stories–quantitative and qualitative data– are key to conveying the importance of addressing a health issue to those with the power to impact difference. 


Global health is not just about addressing health problems as isolated incidents but ensuring a healthier and more equitable world for all. It remains a vital aspect of public health, with far-reaching effects on local and global communities.
Global health is supported by the collective effort of dedicated public health professionals who are motivated to bring transformative changes on a global scale. To take steps towards your own career in global health, get a public health degree to kickstart your career.




























About the Authors

Written by:

Wandia Mureithi, MPH

Wandia Mureithi, MPH is a public health project manager working in research and evaluation. Wandia received her Master’s in Public Health from Drexel University in 2022. Since beginning her career in 2018, she has been engaged in research projects and program evaluations related to sexual health, human trafficking prevention, tobacco prevention, opioid misuse treatment, and diabetes prevention. 

In addition to her work projects, Wandia is interested in reducing maternal and child health disparities and advancing social justice in public health. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Wandia Mureithi portrait photograph

Wandia Mureithi, MPH

Education: Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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