News Release: International, Research

Sep. 14,  2009

Global Health Programs See Spike in Growth

News Article ImageEmory and other universities report high interest in global health education.

From Woodruff Health Sciences

BETHESDA, MD - The number of students enrolled in global health programs in universities across the United States and Canada doubled in just three years due to a surging interest in careers to address health disparities and improve care to people living in developing countries, according to a survey released today by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH).

The survey findings reflect an unprecedented increase in student interest in global health education that is imposing hefty demands on universities to not only provide classes but also hands-on experiences in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The results of the survey, the first to gauge the state of academic global health education, were presented at the Consortium's first annual meeting held at the National Institutes of Health, drawing 250 representatives from 58 universities. Several top U.S. health officials are scheduled to attend the meeting along with five university presidents, from Boston University, Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington in Seattle.

Thirty-seven universities participated in the survey, which was conducted in the past several months.

Here are highlights:

  • The number of undergraduate students enrolled in global health grew from 1,286 to 2,687 between 2006-2009;
  • The number of graduate students enrolled has more than doubled from 949 in 2006 to 2,010 this year;
  • And the number of student organizations focused on global health also has surged; the 37 university programs listed 105 active student organizations, an average of almost three per campus.
  • The survey also found that universities have rapidly established training and education programs around the world. The 37 universities are involved in a combined 302 programs that have been in place for at least one year in 97 countries.

"Programs in global health are attracting students from across the University with a wide range of interests, including health sciences, business, law, theology, and liberal arts disciplines," says Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, Emory vice president for global health and director of the Emory Global Health Institute. "Today's students are very accustomed to study abroad and travel throughout the world, and these opportunities have expanded their world view in very positive ways."

James W. Wagner, president of Emory University, says that most incoming freshmen in universities and colleges around the country were born in 1990 or 1991, arriving on campus with an appreciation of the global community they live in. "The news items that stick in their heads are almost all global - they remember 9/11, and realize that political boundaries don't stop terrorism. They remember SARS, the West Nile virus, and now swine flu - so they know that political boundaries don't stop disease. They have grown up as global citizens demonstrably more so than prior generations."

Emory's programs in global health have grown markedly over the past several years. The Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) was launched in 2006 as a university-wide initiative to support Emory faculty, students and alumni in their work to find solutions to critical global health problems. Since its founding, the EGHI has helped hundreds of students have summer field experiences in low resource countries or participate in meaningful on-campus global health learning experiences, including a global health case competition, theses, dissertations, and research internships.

The Rollins School of Public Health receives more applications for global health graduate programs than for any other program, and Emory University's undergraduate minor in Global Health, Culture and Society, launched in 2007, has already become the largest undergraduate minor on campus.

Emory's Candler School of Theology and the School of Law sponsored students last summer in global field experiences. Student interest is growing across the University.

"My experience at Emory's Travelwell Clinic has not only taught me about infectious diseases, but I am also getting to know other cultures. It has made me want to work in global health even more," says Meredith Holtz, a fourth-year medical student at the Emory University School of Medicine who worked on a project designed to prevent, detect and treat tropical infectious diseases in Georgia's refugee and immigrant communities.

This week's meeting, to be held today and Tuesday at the NIH Natcher Center, is focusing on how universities can pool together their research, education, policy and workforce training talents to bring new energy and approaches to narrow health disparities in low- and middle-income countries.

The effort to push more global health education and training comes amid a renewed focus on global health at the NIH. Incoming Director Dr. Francis S. Collins last month singled out global health as one of five areas he will focus on during his tenure, acknowledging the "enthusiasm in ratcheting up" research and training.

Collins will speak at the conference as will Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, special advisor on health policy, Office of Management and Budget, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, MD, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. In addition to Drs. Emmert and Wagner, three other presidents will speak at the meeting: Dr. Robert A. Brown of Boston University; Dr. Richard H. Brodhead of Duke University; and Ronald J. Daniels of Johns Hopkins University.

Eight university presidents - from BU, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, University of Washington, McGill University, Stanford University, and the University of California - also released a joint statement urging the United States to use the resources of universities to respond to global health needs and support a new generation of global health workers. "Virtually the entire range of university expertise is now engaged in addressing the global disparities in health and development," the statement said.

Following the meeting, the CUGH will participate in a Congressional briefing on Sept. 16, from 9 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, sponsored by the CSIS Global Health Policy Center and the Congressional Global Health Caucus.  Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the Congressional Global Health Caucus, will open the meeting.

For more information on CUGH and the September 14-15 meeting, please see the CUGH Web site

The Presidents statement can be found at: www.cugh.org/sites/default/files/presidents-statement.pdf

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