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New program takes holistic view of health challenges

February 16, 2010

People looking for a way to positively change the world now have another opportunity to do so with the advent of ASU’s master’s degree program in global health, which explores the connections between humans and disease in the broadest possible way.

It combines cutting-edge theories and methods from the life sciences and social sciences in an intense research-based 30-hour curriculum suited to those planning careers in the health field, especially working with vulnerable populations in low-resource settings.

The program addresses health as a multifaceted phenomenon and focuses on a range of skills – such as evolutionary medicine and ethnographic methods – not normally the focus in standard public health training.

Program faculty, representing disciplines ranging from anthropology and biology to geography and mathematics, believe that local and cultural knowledge must be used to find sustainable solutions to the intricate health challenges facing our rapidly globalizing world.

Faculty teams work together with the masters students and in-country collaborators to investigate the most complex and intractable health crises locally and abroad, including climate change-related disease, obesity and reemerging infectious diseases. Global health students collaborate as members of these transnational research teams, meaning much of the degree learning is focused on acquiring skills through on-the-ground experience. As part of this, students complete a summer internship in a partnering community, which the research is intended to benefit. Current sites include locations in Guatemala, Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico, Fiji and Bangladesh.

The master’s in global health is not to be confused with a master’s in public health, also offered at ASU. Though complementary to traditional international public health training, the global health program takes a long-term and holistic view of difficult health issues by recognizing them as the products of many factors, including ecological, historical, institutional, cultural, evolutionary, social and technological.

Since ill health is often created or complicated by forms of social exclusion, emphasis is placed on working with marginalized peoples and on commitment to the ideals of health as a human right and as a relatively politically neutral tool for promoting social justice more widely.

The global health program is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Human Evolution and Social Change. The school anticipates accepting applications with a deadline of April 20 for admission in fall 2010. Admission is competitive, with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the social, life or applied sciences as the minimum admission requirement. The degree can be completed in one calendar year, including a summer internship. It also can be completed as a conjoint or accelerated bachelor's/master's program for students completing the bachelor's degree in global health through ASU.

For more information, visit, or contact program director Ana Magdalena Hurtado at 

Rebecca Howe,
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Scott Southward,
School of Human Evolution and Social Change