Jones & Bartlett Learning Health Blog

    Keeping Up in Global Health – What’s New, Important, and Valuable for Teaching

    Posted by Cassie Peterson on Dec 30, 2013 11:17:14 AM

    Richard Skolnik – Author of Global Health 101

    As the school semester begins, many of us who teach Global Health are busy updating our syllabi. This would be important in any field. However, it is especially important in Global Health, since so much new information is constantly being generated.

    Therefore, I am going to comment below on a number of the most important reports and articles that have come out in the last several months.

    The most important new piece on Global Health since the publication in December 2012 of The Global Burden of Disease 2010, (about which I wrote earlier), is the report of The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health. Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation, was published December 3, 2012 and can be found at: http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/global-health-2035.

    The Commission, building on the twentieth anniversary of the 1993 World Development Report, Investing in Health, examined critical issues in Global Health and how they might be addressed in the most cost-effective ways in the next 20 years.

    The main findings of the report are that:

    • The returns to investing in health are very high;
    • The health of people in today’s lower- and middle-income countries should converge with the health of people in today’s high-income countries over the next twenty years if countries invest wisely;
    • Countries can use fiscal policies much more effectively to address the burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries;
    • Low- and middle-income countries can take steps in a progressive manner to achieve universal health coverage with financial protection.

    The Lancet also issued a series of comments on the main report, an infographic, a webcast, and an audio presentation.

    I believe that this report is absolutely essential to any Global Health course, at any level. I see the report as important for setting the strongest possible foundation for all that the students will learn in my courses. Thus, I plan to assign the report in the first few weeks of both the undergraduate and graduate introductory courses on Global Health that I will be teaching at Yale in the coming semester. However, the report could also be used at the end of a course to summarize all that the students have learned.

    Research on the global burden of disease, led by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), is continuous and the IHME has published a number of important pieces since the 2010 study was published. Among the most important are country level studies of the burden of disease and studies of the burden of disease by World Bank region, for the United States, and for Europe. The IHME also produces interesting infographics and data visualizations from time to time, so you will want to keep up on a regular basis with their work.

    Another exceptionally interesting ongoing study related to the burden of disease is the Million Death Study that is being carried out by the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto) and The University of Toronto, in conjunction with partners in India. This study will try to improve data on the true causes of death in India by monitoring 14 million people in 2.4 million families in India between 1998 and 2014. The main page for the Million Death Study is at: http://www.cghr.org/index.php/projects/million-death-study-project/.

    The study has led to a number of important publications and reports, with more to come. They can be found at: http://www.cghr.org/index.php/publications/million-death-study/.

    Hans Rosling and his colleagues at Gapminder regularly produce videos, infographics, Ted© Talks and other talks that are enlightening and fun: http://www.gapminder.org. It would be easy and enjoyable for you and students to use various Gapminder materials throughout the course and I plan to use them more this year than before.

    UNAIDS, WHO, Stop TB, and Roll Back Malaria produce an annual update on HIV, TB, and malaria and they are essential reading, as well. The main page for the 2013 UNAIDS Global Report on the HIV Epidemic and its related materials can be found here: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/globalreport2013/globalreport/. The WHO/Stop TB annual report on TB is at: http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/en/.

    The World Malaria Report 2013 is here: http://www.who.int/malaria/en/.

    Bangladesh is an exceptionally important country for the study of Global Health, given its size, its poverty, and the pioneering work done in Bangladesh on family planning and oral rehydration, among other things. In addition, Bangladesh has made more progress in a number of health areas than one would predict, given the country’s economic status. Thus, The Lancet series on Bangladesh, which was published in November 2012 is very important. I will use the series extensively in my upper level undergraduate case studies course. However, I will also use several of the articles in my introductory courses, when we speak about health systems in different countries and when we speak about health equity.

    Of course, there are many more reports and articles of importance that have come out in the last six months or so. However, the ones cited above are among those I shall make the most use of in my Global Health courses.

    Keeping up to date is not easy, given all we have to do and the continuous flow of new materials. However, when the third edition of Global Health 101 comes out in about a year, I hope to make keeping up easier by including on the book’s website a list that will be updated regularly of key new resources in Global Health.

    Thanks to Rachel Skolnik Light for her comments on the draft of this blog.

    Richard Skolnik is a Lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, where he teaches global health courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Richard was previously an Instructor in Global Health at The George Washington University, the Vice President for International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau, and the Executive Director of the Harvard School of Public Health PEPFAR program. Richard worked at the World Bank from 1976 to 2001, last serving as the Director for Health and Education for South Asia. Richard is the author of Global Health 101, a comprehensive, introductory text on global health.

    Topics: Richard Skolnik, Global health

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