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Introduction to Global Public Health




Admission Requirements

In the event that you have not had an introduction to Biology class in your background, it would be recommended (though this is not a requirement) that you go through one of the following two (free) online Introductory Biology classes in preparation for the Introduction to Global Public Health course and to get the most out of the GPH BSc programme.

The first course listed is the most complete in that it contains all the lectures on video, class notes, handouts, etc, and lectures are even subtitled in English. It is an Introductory Biology class taught at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You can link directly to this class through MIT open course ware at:


The second option, through the University of California-Berkeley, offers only the video lectures, but provides a very good solid overview of biology that includes human anatomy and physiology toward the last third of the course (which is important to know for the understanding of many public health classes). There are multiple versions of this same course (Refer to course “Biology 1A 001”) offered at the link below. The most recent versions of the course are listed first:


Although both the MIT and Berkeley courses are introductory biology classes they cover slightly different material in different ways. The MIT course appears to be more technical with greater emphasis on biochemistry and genetics. Thus, it goes into particular aspects of biology in greater depth and appears to be geared toward Biology majors. The Cal-Berkeley course appears to be a more comprehensive survey course of biology, covering more aspects of biology, but in less depth than MIT. However, as mentioned, the Cal-Berkeley Biology course offers a very good overview of human anatomy/physiology, which is imperative for many courses in global public health. Therefore, even though the MIT biology class is the more complete offering of the entire course, the Cal-Berkeley course may be more directed toward students pursuing the life sciences and for this reason I lean toward recommending the Berkeley Bio course over the MIT course. However, both are excellent and either will provide a very good intro for students who have not taken a course in biology.


This course will introduce the student to the foundational concepts and theories of public health and serve as an overview of the program in Global Public Health. Topics include: the history of public health; biomedical, social, and cultural understandings of health; the measurement and evaluation of population health; determining causality in public health; the structure of health care systems; community health; environmental health; social medicine; political economy of health, and health policy, management, and governance. Concepts are critically examined in terms of global challenges to population health.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Critically examine the health of populations as outcomes of complex multidimensional biological, social, cultural, and historical processes

  • Implement basic analyses of population health

  • Assess the appropriate level of analysis for a given public health issue

  • Compare the effectiveness of the structural components of health care systems

  • Evaluate global challenges concerning the health of populations

Mode of Instruction

In addition to lectures and discussions, the course will utilize student debates and student presentations. Three tutorials in small groupings will also be offered in order to discuss student assignments in more detail than is possible in larger groups.


Assessment: Assignments (x4)
Percentage: 40
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Debates (x2)
Percentage: 15
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Final paper from Assignments
Percentage: 30
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Presentations
Percentage: 15
Deadline: Ongoing

Assignments: Students will submit assignments (at the end of weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7) employing their choice of a particular global public health challenge in a particular low- and high-income context. Assignments are due by Noon the Monday following the week in which they are assigned. Assignments should be no more than 2,000 words. Each assignment will be worth 10% of the course grade.

Tutorials: Small groups (3-4 students) meet with the instructor once every two weeks to discuss their assignments in detail. The tutorial system provides the student with more attention to individual needs and will occur in the week following assignment submission.

Debates: There will be two classroom debates for the course. Students are assessed (15% of course grade) on both their ability to defend their arguments and work as a team.

Presentations: Students will give short (10 minute) presentations summarising their findings from their final papers. Presentations will be held during classes in the 6th and 7th weeks and will count toward 15% of the course grade.

Final Paper: The final paper should be no more than 6,000 words and should be submitted by the end of the 8th week.


Required Textbooks
(Please purchase in advance of first class. Note many of these texts will be re-used for other courses in the program.)

  • Merson, M., Black, R., Mills, A. 2012. Global Health: Diseases, Programs, Systems and Policies. Third Edition. Jones and Bartlett.

  • Porter, D. 1998. Health, Civilization and the State: A History of Public Health from Ancient to Modern Times. Routledge.

  • Rosen, G. 1993. A History of Public Health. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Recommended Textbooks

  • Farmer, P. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.

  • Garret, L. 2001. Betrayal of Trust: the collapse of global public health. Oxford University Press.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

  • Week 1: Introduction to the Health of Populations

  • Week 2: The Language of Health

  • Week 3: Global Health in Context

  • Week 4: Health and Place

  • Week 5: The Structure of Health Care Systems

  • Week 6: Managing the Health of Populations

  • Week 7: Global Health/Local Health

Preparation for first session

Please come to the first class prepared to discuss Chapters 1-5 of Rosen’s “A History of Public Health” and Chapter 2 of “Global Health: Diseases, Programs, Systems and Policies”.