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In-depth Review: The Challenges of Global Health

Detailed review by Class Central user Elizabeth Enjambre Hernani on a course about our role as stakeholders in the future of a global community.

Review by Elizabeth Enjambre Hernani. Currently a medical student, Elizabeth has various interests outside of medicine. She loves working with people and discussing ideas and jokes.

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Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the world population has steadily grown. Along with the development of countries, the rise of international and domestic migration, increasing economic interdependence and climate change, we have seen their implications on the health of the human body. As we witness waves of outbreaks of various scales–the emergence of infectious diseases–and the significant role that other categories of illnesses play on populations, we begin to understand that the study of health can no longer be confined to the welfare of an individual but that of the community and the world as well. After all, Global Health is a synthesis of Public Health and Medicine.

The Challenges of Global Health with David Boyd

There are certain principles of Global Health–the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’–necessary for the serious learner’s foundations requisite to his future practice. This MOOC The Challenges of Global Health presents to us the ‘why’. Why is Global Health important to everyone, regardless of race, sex, age, education, creed, and profession? Why does it affect us all?

Dr. David Boyd of the Duke Global Health Institute will answer these questions by presenting the challenges that afflict the practice of Global Health.


There are still around three million avoidable deaths in children under five years old. This is just one of the major challenges of Global Health today. In the complex web of causation, social determinants–our culture, belief systems–and economic and political factors further affect health outcomes in the larger picture. We all possess a piece of the puzzle. We all can make contributions in the body of knowledge, in problem analysis, in synthesis of solutions or surveillance. The first step is in knowing what we are and will be dealing with in the near future.


He is the guy who sometimes sits too close to the camera, has accumulated a lot of books on the same subject, kept a giraffe, bottled drinks and a bike inside his office. What his already lengthy curriculum vitae may have omitted is his other profession or hobby: “travelogging”. Or I suppose he was just a frustrated reporter who has a lot of time and friends to interview (see below).

I have never met Dr. Boyd in my life, but he certainly is a very engaging and hilarious instructor. He remains relaxed despite the nature of the topics. His passion for Global Health is evident.


He will take you to the fields, where under the scorching sun, he ambushes Dr. Pan in an interview. You will also learn how to pronounce dengue. Dr. Boyd will drag you to Asia in his own documentary-like journey to re-tell the avian flu pandemic. He jumps from country to another to eat dessert, to show peoples’ lives, or just to have refreshing variation of scenery. 

Did I mention that you should expect to be constantly exposed to a bald professor who sometimes sits too close to the camera? At the end of the course, that iconic globe sitting on human shoulders will stay with you forever.

He will take you to the fields, where under the scorching sun, he ambushes Dr. Pan in an interview. You will also learn how to pronounce dengue. Dr. Boyd will drag you to Asia in his own documentary-like journey to re-tell the avian flu pandemic. He jumps from country to another to eat dessert, to show peoples’ lives, or just to have refreshing variation of scenery.

He invites leading experts, practitioners and field workers–Dr. Merson, Dr. Woods, Dr. Kohrt, Dr. Lynch, Dr. Bennett, Dr. Ramanujam–in his office to talk about real-life situations: mental health, trauma, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, malaria, Ebola, to name a few. What you will hear has come from the grassroots of practice. They are the signs and symptoms of the key challenges of Global Health.


The course is self-paced and arranged in a way that anyone who had started out with minimal knowledge of Public Health or Medicine will be able to quickly grasp the information.  A week typically starts with slide presentations of terminology and basic concepts.  More emphasis is given on the practical aspect, such as input on the current situation by various professionals who have had years of experience working in the field. The examples presented are very relevant and relatable.

Let’s face it: some of us do not have the luxury of time to digest volumes of books.  This MOOC limits its list of recommended readings to a few reports that one can absolutely access online anytime and anywhere.  The interested learner is also referred to various websites of global organizations for updated statistics and more detailed take per issue.  The quizzes are also short, straightforward and easy; they test what the learner of this course needs to know and less on the gritty academic technicalities.

Being a medical student somehow gave me an advantage somehow in terms of speed in finishing the course.  What has been spread out in five weeks can be finished in a day!

Overall, The Challenges of Global Health has been a wonderful experience.  The ever-increasing inequity in healthcare both in the Global North and Global South provides a rich environment for application of the knowledge I have gained through this MOOC–knowledge that I cannot simply unlearn.  I have found new meaning–or more precisely, perspective–in the mundane of everyday life, in my job.  I am inspired to expand my reading or take more related courses, even maybe consider a Global Health track during residency training. This course has taken me closer to the niche that I want to fill in soon.


The only prerequisite to this course is interest.

Whether you are in the fields of engineering, economics, governance, public health, medicine or law, if you are interested in enhancing your understanding of the health of a nation–and its bidirectional impact with the individual–with respect to the world, I recommend enrolling in The Challenges of Global Health. If you are interested in new perspectives to help weave sustainable solutions to bigger problems of society, Global Health should be in your list.


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