What is Global Health?
Global health examines the health of communities in an interconnected world. Market forces, agricultural production, environmental changes, and foreign aid structures impact the health of people throughout the world powerfully and immediately. These health impacts are often unintended.
The field of Global Health is based in public health, a discipline with roots in both social reform movements and in science. Public health focuses on health at the population level. Public health scrutinizes the role of medicine – the care of the individual – in affecting the health of communities; of particular concern are people’s access to health care, the quality of that care, and the sustainability of the health system providing it.
Understanding the impacts of global forces and population-level interventions on community health requires a multidisciplinary approach. Lives are threatened or improved, lost or saved, by decisions made at the individual, family, societal, and global levels; Global Health uncovers these processes using evidence, ideas, and theories from a variety of fields.
Why study Global Health in a liberal arts context?
A liberal arts education aims to provide students with strong critical thinking skills and a broad understanding of problems from the perspective of a variety of disciplines. Students are encouraged to cultivate social awareness and to use their skills as engaged global citizens.
Such commitment to multidisciplinary, socially aware thinking lends itself naturally to the study of global health issues. The study of Global Health often requires understanding a given problem from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, a natural fit for the liberal arts approach. Understanding global health issues frequently involves broad interdisciplinary study of fields ranging from economics to biology to anthropology to history. In a larger academic context characterized by increasingly isolated disciplinary silos, the liberal arts are uniquely positioned to facilitate this kind of thinking.
The liberal arts education at Middlebury College takes place both within and outside of the classroom, both on campus and off. Global Health is a natural fit at a College whose mission statement embraces the “pursuit of knowledge unconstrained by national or disciplinary boundaries.” Students may enhance and apply their global health education through many resources and initiatives, such as the following:
- The Middlebury CV Starr Schools Abroad provide academic rigor and cultural immersion at 36 sites in 16 countries.
- The summer Language Schools provide intensive study in 11 languages.
- The Programs on Creativity and Innovation in the Liberal Arts (PCI) are designed to foster creativity and leadership to meet 21st century challenges by providing funding and workspaces to test ideas in a non-academic setting.
- MiddCORE, a leadership and innovation program, and the Center for Social Entrepreneurship foster collaboration and real-world applications of liberal arts learning by providing opportunities for creativity and problem-solving, connecting students with mentors, and providing networking opportunities.
- The Community Engagement programs support civic participation through local volunteer service, community-connected research, and alternative break trips.
- Global health students supplement their classroom learning by connecting with peers in various student organizations focused on global health, human rights, diversity, gender, and community challenges such as homelessness, affordable food, and migrant worker justice.
These opportunities permit students to integrate their liberal arts learning and apply creative thinking to real-world challenges, gaining competencies and experiences that are critical to a career in Global Health or a related field.