Career Opportunities in Global Health

Andreas Dounis*

Global health is a research field at the intersection of medical and social science disciplines including demography, economics, epidemiology, political economy, and sociology. It focuses on determinants and distribution of health from different disciplinary perspectives in international contexts [1]

For decades the predominant term has been «international health», conveying the image of high income countries sending people, equipment and funds to the developing world. But, global health should not be confused with international health. In recent years the rapid evolution of air travel, commerce and electronic communications has effectively served to make the world smaller and the importance of health risks and problems truly global. The evolving term «global health» better captures the sense of our commonality across borders — and of the common commitment to improve human health throughout the world. Thus, global health refers to worldwide health improvement, reduction of health disparities and inequalities, and protection against global threats that disregard national borders [2].

Health problems that have a global political and economic impact are also included in the “branch” of the term global health.

Career paths in global health seem very rewarding for every ambitious entry-level or advanced professional. Albeit, certain general remarks must be considered:

Consider your personality traits: Difficult living and working conditions and challenges may be the result of working and living abroad, especially in low-income countries. Language challenges, strange foods or even challenges to personal safety may sometimes create hardships.

Reconsider your motivations: Altruism is inextricably linked to youth “excitement” or “pure motives”. But, motivations change as life priorities do. You must be certain that you want to follow a career path in global health regardless of the life-stage or priorities. Motivations and best timing must form the core of your decision.

Use your elective and vacation time. Go abroad and sample specialties of potential interest. Spend time with established practitioners to learn about these fields of practice, their benefits, limitations, relevance for overseas work, and the market for qualified specialists. Consider taking or designing an elective “concentration in global health” where you can develop a professional approach to solving the major global health problems through research, service, and education.

 

What do you want to do in Global Health? Choosing a specialty of interest to you

Broad choices include practitioner, educator, researcher, grant or contract maker (i.e., a philanthropist with foundation or government money) or what might be termed “change agent.”

Let us not forget, that following a career path in public health requires a corresponding university or post-graduate education and in some cases certain years of experience in the field.

According to CDCCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/employment/employment.htm) most CDC global health vacancies fall into one of four positions:

  • Epidemiologist
  • Public Health Advisor
  • Health Scientist – Researcher
  • Medical Officer

You – the applicant – must be strategic and careful with your choices. Some specialties might appeal to you but they should also offer some points of entry, for you to be able to follow the desired career path.

Also, career opportunities in global health are now far more numerous than in the past, but overall skill requirements are far more demanding. There are possibilities that lead to a short-term or long-term career, and this choice depends upon your priorities or preferred career development course or the stage of your career.

 

* Andreas Dounis has completed his Post-Graduate Education at the Department of Social Policy at Panteion University. He is the Founder and editor-in-chief at socialpolicy.gr.

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[1] https://sipa.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/Career%20Op%20Global%20Health.pdf

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_health

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