Promoting a More Inclusive Definition of Global Health in U.S. Medical Schools

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Vishal Khetpal


Due to increased funding opportunities, faculty recruitment, and growing interest among medical students, global health has evolved into a mainstay in American medical education. However, medical schools continue to engage with global health through fundamentally different definitions of the term itself.1,2,3 These interpretations range widely, from emphasis on neglected tropical diseases, to health systems strengthening. This essay offers a more concise and inclusive definition of global health for academic inquiry undertaken by medical schools in this field - to interpret the word global as global in scope, rather than global in geography alone. Clarifying the definition of global health in this manner offers three distinct advantages. First, it would better align American medical schools’ global health interests to the Sustainable Development Goals passed in 2015 by the United Nations, and other consensus documents shaping the current global health agenda.4 Second, this definition would encourage researchers from non-traditional disciplines in academic medicine to collaborate with medical schools on global health projects. Finally, it would facilitate smoother translation of global health practices between developed and developing countries. Reforming the definition of global health in this nature would ultimately preserve the problem-solving ethos of this field, while streamlining its commendable efforts to improve society.

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Khetpal, V. (2020). Promoting a More Inclusive Definition of Global Health in U.S. Medical Schools. The Columbia University Journal of Global Health, 9(2).