Global Health


MPH@GW’s global health elective courses are designed for students who are committed to improving public health on a global scale by researching public health issues; implementing programs to address, prevent and reduce disparities in health care; and effectively communicating health news to the public and increasing awareness across borders.

The world is becoming more and more interconnected as the ease of travel and communication across countries and culture improves. This global connectivity means that a national health crisis can quickly turn into a global health crisis if not managed and addressed appropriately. With a global health background, you can bring relief to underserved populations around the world. Global health is playing an increasingly important role in national and international security, and it greatly impacts our global economy.

What Is Global Health?

Global health is broadly defined as the area of study, research and practice that not only seeks to improve population health nationally and internationally but also seeks to achieve health equity worldwide. Professionals tackling global health issues develop, implement and evaluate policies to improve the health and well-being of underserved populations in low- and middle-income settings.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Department of Global Health works to close the gap between science and policy, both in Washington, D.C., and internationally, through cutting-edge research and scholarly service activities.

"The professors are such accomplished scholars, and it is incredibly exciting to learn from people who have done so much for local, national and global health."
— Annie Leverich, Digital Advocacy and Fundraising Manager, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Fields of Interest

Professionals in global health may work for organizations or agencies that concentrate on the following areas:

  • Global Health Diplomacy: Advancing the nation’s health care agendas through strategic diplomacy, and conversely, improving diplomatic relations through collaboration.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health: Designing, implementing and measuring programs that address challenges involving family planning, abortion, maternal health and gender-based violence.
  • Global Health Communication: Studying human behavior and its complexities in order to strategize how health policy, research and news is accurately and effectively communicated to the public.
  • Health Equity: Preventing and reducing disparities in public health and health care by creating programs, interventions or policies that address contributing political, social and economic factors.
  • Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention: Understanding the impact violence against women and girls (VAWG) has on the health of the survivor, her current or future children, and communities in order to bring about awareness and prevention.

To explore some of the major concepts and terminology global health professionals regularly use and encounter, read our 15 Terms to Know in Global Health blog post.

"I want to leave a positive impact on global health and empower underserved populations someday. I believe that MPH@GW will give me a strong foundation in those areas."Dahae Hailey Bae, Research Fellow, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

Job Outlook

Employment of health educators is expected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is a much faster growth rate than the average for all occupations.1 The growing demand for community health workers stems from increasing efforts to reduce health care costs and improve outcomes by raising awareness about healthy habits and behaviors.

Graduates from Milken Institute School of Public Health who have focused on global health have pursued careers at various organizations, including:

  • Abt Associates, Clinical Research Associate
  • International Vaccine Access Center, Johns Hopkins, Communications and Advocacy Officer
  • Council on Foreign Relations, Global Health, Economics and Development Researcher
  • UN World Food Programme, Project Manager
  • The Manoff Group, Project Officer for Nutrition and Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC)
  • Social & Scientific Systems Inc., Research Analyst

For additional information related to global health, read these posts:


With MPH@GW, you will complete 9 to 11 elective credits hours. Interested in global health? Consider choosing the following elective courses to match your interests.

Researching Violence Against Women


This course provides a detailed overview of the intersection of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and public health, given the demonstrated and significant impact that violence has on the health of the survivor, her current and future children, and communities. Through readings, lectures, and assignments, students will become acquainted with the set of rigorous methods and best practices for designing applied research on VAWG. The course draws from Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists (Ellsberg & Heise, 2005), which was crafted by the collective experiences and insights of many international researchers and advocates. The class will build on methods learned in other public health courses and will cover ethics, qualitative and quantitative research design, and monitoring and evaluation interventions specific to VAWG, culminating in the development of a full research proposal. After completing the course, students will be able to design research that is fully grounded in the principles of scientific inquiry and generate knowledge that can be used for social change.

Sexual & Reproductive Health Program Planning


This course has been designed to give students a practical overview of key sexual and reproductive health challenges in low and middle-income countries and insight into how to design and measure programs to address, those challenges (namely: family planning, abortion, maternal health and gender-based violence). We have developed the course from the perspective of applied researchers working within an organization that implements sexual and reproductive health programs and services. The course is structured in three sections. Section one provides an overview of sexual and reproductive health conditions relevant for low- and middle-income countries. Section two discusses intervention strategies appropriate to these sexual and reproductive challenges. The final section covers monitoring and evaluation approaches to assess program effectiveness and impact in this field. Reading and coursework will provide students with practical tools to design and measure their own program strategies. Students will complete a series of assignments building to a final project proposal designed to address a specific sexual and reproductive health problem in a country of their choosing. These assignments will make use of foundational skills developed in previous MPH@GW coursework identified in the course prerequisites.

Global Environmental & Occupational Health


This course examines environmental and occupational health (EOH) challenges in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) using a participatory approach and PubH 6004 as a foundation. Factors contributing significantly to the global burden of disease are emphasized. The course incorporates principles and methods from exposure science, epidemiology, risk assessment, social sciences, and development economics and highlights potential solutions to EOH challenges, focusing on metrics used to measure impacts and areas for future research.

Global Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Programs


This course is designed to introduce students to both development and disaster settings of low-income countries where contaminated water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene (WASH) are the cause of serious health problems. In this course, important concepts in WASH will be covered so that students can understand what is needed to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a WASH program or a WASH component of multi-sectoral programs. It emphasizes the need to develop effective, appropriate, accessible and affordable WASH interventions to reduce the global burden of disease.

Global Health Frameworks


This course provides an overview of current issues in global public health with particular emphasis on low- and middle-income countries. The course is designed to be both a first course for students entering the field of global health, as well as an update on current technical and policy issues for advanced students who may have considerable experience. While taking this course, you may identify specific topics in which you want to gain more knowledge and skills in courses offered later in the year on core areas of global health such as health sector reform; organization and management of health systems; community health and primary health care; humanitarian assistance and refugee health; international nutrition; vaccine development and policy; disease prevention and control; and social and behavioral interventions.

Social and Behavior Change Communication in Middle to Low-Income Countries


This course will illustrate the ways in which social and behavior change communication (SBCC) programming influences behavior change in resource-constrained settings. The overall objective of this course is to demonstrate the ways in which behavior change and sociocultural theories underpin the development of SBCC programs in politically, culturally, and socially diverse settings. The course will make clear the importance, and challenges, of generating and applying high-quality evidence that can inform evidence-based programming. “Real-world” SBCC interventions will be used to illustrate the unique challenges faced when implementing programs in settings that require the coordination of international donors, host country governments, and implementing organizations.

Global Health Diplomacy


This course introduces students to the concept of Global Health Diplomacy, starting with historical case studies of how diplomacy has been used to advance health agendas, and conversely, how health issues have been used to improve diplomatic relations between countries. We introduce students to formal health diplomacy, multi-stakeholder health diplomacy and informal health diplomacy, and provide comparative studies of how different countries have devised health diplomacy strategies.

Public Health in Complex Emergencies


This course gives both historical and contemporary descriptions and analyses of public health interventions in humanitarian emergencies. It discusses the evolution of the public health sector in emergency relief in terms of its governance, its technical priorities, and its effectiveness. It combines instruction on the technical aspects of high-priority public health interventions with in-depth consideration of why and how sound public health interventions should be implemented in both emergency and chronic humanitarian settings. The course discusses the roles of diverse humanitarian actors, including donors, representatives of the UN system, nongovernmental organizations, technical agencies, host country governments, and the beneficiaries themselves. It reviews the actions of each, discusses their operational advantages and constraints, and reviews their performance in select situations. These settings will include both natural (e.g., earthquake, tsunami, floods, pandemics) and man-made (war, civil strife) emergencies. Predisaster preparedness and postdisaster health sector rehabilitation will also be addressed.

Global Child Health


The course will introduce students to the main elements of the science, policy, challenges, and successes related to child health with a focus on low and middle income countries. Successful students will obtain a strong technical grounding in the epidemiology, biology and pathogenesis of specific childhood diseases that kill over 5 million children under five years of age annually. Classes will review the major causes of mortality and morbidity, including clinical sequelae, diagnostics tools, tools for disease prevention, control, and case management, policy priorities, and operational challenges. The course will be global in coverage, but maintain a focus on the developing world and on the health of children under five. The course will address communicable diseases of childhood for the most part, but will deal with relevant chronic disease pandemics such as HIV and over-nutrition. In addition, learners will obtain an overview of the determinants of child health in underserved populations worldwide, and the influence of various co-factors, including social, economic, demographic, and political aspects of individual and community health. Learners will review the burden of disease, and risk factors associated with disease burden with a lens to apply cost-effective interventions and tools.

Take the Next Step

If you are ready to advance your career in public health with an online MPH from GW, request more information today.

1 (2017) (Accessed March 2, 2018)Return to footnote reference