What is Global Health?


More and more universities are offering placements, specialties, or even full degrees in global health. Global health is often referenced in media clips, or brought up during foreign policy discussions.

It’s a rapidly growing field.

But what is global health exactly, and why is it so important?

Global health is a field that aims to ensure that every person in the world is as healthy as possible. It’s a field where people from different disciplines come together to improve the health and well-being of people worldwide.(1)

So what does this mean?

As recent health challenges like Zika or Ebola have shown, what happens in one part of the world can impact us all. 

Because in today’s globalized world, health is no longer confined to national boundaries. We therefore need teams of health policymakers, economists, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health professionals, and so forth, coming together to respond to, prevent and improve health issues that affect us all. 

This is how global health has emerged as a sector.

And given this context, global health is only going to expand, very quickly.

Consider this: in the coming decades, the next outbreak of disease will be increasingly discussed in political circles. Displaced people fleeing war and conflict will continue to require access to health services. More and more people will get sick from factors like air pollution. And major issues like improving hygiene and sanitation, reducing obesity rates, or strengthening mental health services will continue to be on policy agendas.

Simply put, challenges such as these aren’t going to disappear any time soon.

Recognizing this reality, we need global health experts to be trained on how to draft policies, design programs, or be on the front lines of health service provision to ensure that we, as a global community, are as healthy as possible.

And given this context, global health is often best known for its underlying mission: a world where every person, everywhere has a fair chance at good health.

This mission is often the overarching goal of global health experts. It’s to ensure that all people in the world can, first and foremost, experience good health so they can thrive in their lives.

This concept may not sound groundbreaking.

But it is.

It means that no matter where someone was born, or where they may now live, each individual has a basic right to being healthy. 

Sadly, as evidence shows, people from low-income households are disproportionately less healthy.(2) As a result, there’s often an emphasis in global health to providing care to marginalized groups who are more likely to experience poor health. This is why global health is often known for being intertwined with concepts of social justice, equity, and humanitarianism.

It’s a field where doctors can provide on-the-ground health care after emergencies like natural disasters. Or where policymakers strive to improve access to high-quality drugs for Indigenous groups.

It’s an exciting, rewarding and challenging field to be immersed in. It’s a sector that’s filled with opportunities, heartbreak, progress, and frustrations. It requires long-term commitments. But it’s worth it, and it’s essential.

Moving forward, one of the biggest challenges that lies ahead of us in global health is ensuring this sector has the health workers it needs.

Without a strong workforce, we simply won’t have the personnel needed to fight emerging global health threats. And we certainly won’t be able to achieve global targets like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3 of promoting health and well-being for all people. 

Yet this is currently an overlooked problem. According to the World Health Organization, we are on track to developing a health worker deficit of over 18 million people by the year 2030.

We therefore need to find new ways to ensuring that global health professionals can easily explore and connect with the organizations that are trailblazing new paths to strengthening health outcomes around the world.

This is our challenge.

Global health is currently a broad but fragmented sector.

There are many non-profits, hospitals, foundations, universities, etc., doing impactful global health work. But it’s difficult to quickly find these organizations and discover the relevant job and volunteer opportunities that they’re offering.

This is where ThriveHire comes in.

Through our centralized platform, we’re simplifying things for the global health community.

Our mission is simple: to build up the global health workforce by helping organizations market their work and connect them with the highly skilled professionals and volunteers they’re looking for. By providing industry-related tools and resources, and shining a spotlight on various organizations, jobs and volunteer opportunities, we aim to elevate the global health sector.

We’re excited to see what progress lies ahead for us in global health. And we’re looking forward to doing our part to ensuring this sector continues creating important impacts in our communities.

Hayley Mundeva
Founder and CEO of ThriveHire