In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Global Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Blogs and Online Resources
  • History
  • Social Determinants and Health Equity
  • Global Health Governance, Policy, and Law
  • Partnerships for Global Health
  • Generating Political Priority for Global Health
  • Research and Training Priorities

Public Health Global Health
Karen R. Siegel, KMV Narayan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 October 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0129


Global health is the study of population health in a global context. In today’s increasingly globalized world, the discipline is concerned with health issues that transcend individual country boundaries and perspectives. The impact of globalization on health is also a key theme in contemporary global health. Globalization in the 21st century is characterized by rapid economic growth in large emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Mexico, and by demographic changes including the aging of populations and a growing middle class, and by increasing diversity. With this modern globalization and the accompanying technological, travel, migration, and lifestyle changes, the threats to health are also changing dynamically and in a globally interconnected way. For example, common global health issues that go beyond borders include the growth of chronic non-communicable diseases, the rapid spread of infectious diseases such as SARS, poverty and health disparities, environmental factors, the rising cost of healthcare, and the role of technology and genomics. In this increasingly interconnected world, a focus on global issues, particularly those involving health threats and potential opportunities for solutions are gaining greater attention. This is evident in the fact that since 1966, the number of articles about global health appearing in PubMed/Medline rose from one article in 1966 to 1,734 in 2011; by mid-year in 2012, there were 1,323 published articles. The following bibliography provides a collection of some of these resources (textbooks, journals, websites, articles, etc.) that provide insight into the field of global health. Resources detailing the history, challenges, and current issues in global health (specific diseases, health systems, global health financing, governance and law, and training priorities) have also been provided. This compilation is based on the authors’ views.

General Overviews

This section covers a broad array of articles that introduce the field of global health. The first article attempts to answer the question: “What is global health?” (Koplan, et al. 2009). Cohen 2006 discusses many of the challenges facing today’s global health advocates. We then take a historical perspective, returning to the World Health Organization 1978 and the World Health Organization 1986, two key global health documents that have played a role in setting the stage for today’s global health work. They focus on defining key guiding principles for improving the health of populations around the world and ensuring “health for all.” Garrett 2001 describes critical issues—and failures—in the global health field, from the perspective of a journalist outside of the biomedical perspective. The final article introduces readers to current challenges in global health today and in the future, particularly from a financing perspective considering the current economic climate (Sridhar 2010).

  • Cohen, J. 2006. The new world of global health. Science 311.5758: 162–167.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5758.162

    Discusses how wealthy countries have begun to tackle infectious diseases of the poor, but how these ambitious efforts are just now confronting their own limitations.

  • Garrett, L. 2001. Betrayal of trust: The collapse of global public health. New York: Hyperion.

    Written by a journalist, this is a critical read for anyone in the global health field. Garrett exposes the collapse of public-health systems around the world, the shocking weaknesses in our medical system, and the ramifications of a world suddenly much smaller yet still far apart when it comes to wealth and attention to health.

  • Koplan, J. P., T. C. Bond, M. H. Merson, et al. 2009. Towards a common definition of global health. The Lancet 373.9679: 1993–1995.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60332-9

    Global health can be thought of as a notion, an objective, or a mix of scholarship, research, and practice. This article sets out to define what is global health, discussing the definition from various vantage points. A useful read for those students or health professionals who are just starting out in the field of global health.

  • Sridhar, D. 2010. Seven challenges in international development assistance for health and ways forward. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 38.3: 459–469.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00505.x

    Outlines seven challenges in development assistance for health, which in the current financial context, have become even more important to address. The paper provides three suggestions for ways forward: creating new mechanisms to hold donors accountable, developing national plans and strengthening national leadership in health, and South-South collaboration.

  • World Health Organization. Declaration of Alma-Ata: International Conference on Primary Health Care, Alma-Ata, USSR, 6–12 September 1978.

    This document, created and ratified at an international conference sponsored by the World Health Organization, became the major touchstone for defining and guiding the central philosophies and methods of international public health cooperation among nations. The Health for All series of publications included model population health objectives.

  • World Health Organization. The Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion: First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa, 21 November 1986.

    This document, building on progress made through the Alma-Ata, was drafted at the first International Conference on Health Promotion in Ottawa. The conference was primarily a response to growing expectations for a new public health movement around the world. Discussions focused on the needs in industrialized countries but took into account similar concerns in all other regions.

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