Global health is the health of populations in a global context; it has been defined as “the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide”. Problems that transcend national borders or have a global political and economic impact are often emphasized. Thus, global health is about worldwide health improvement, reduction of disparities, and protection against global threats that disregard national borders. Global health is not to be confused with international health, which is defined as the branch of public health focusing on developing nations and foreign aid efforts by industrialized countries.
The predominant agency associated with global health (and international health) is the World Health Organization (WHO). Other important agencies impacting global health include UNICEF, World Food Programme, and the World Bank. The United Nations has also played a part with declaration the Millennium Development Goals.
International health employs several perspectives that focus on the determinants and distribution of health in international contexts:
- Medicine describes the pathology of diseases and promotes prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
- Public health emphasizes the health of populations.
- Epidemiology helps identify risk factors and causes of health problems.
- Demography provides data for policy decisions.
- Economics emphasizes the cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit approaches for the optimal allocation of health resources.
- Other social sciences such as sociology, development studies, anthropology, cultural studies, and law can help understand the determinants of health in societies.
Both individuals and organizations working in the domain of global health often face many questions regarding ethical and human rights. Critical examination of the various causes and justifications of health inequities is necessary to the success of proposed solutions.