Global Health Studies Competencies

Global health competencies are unique lenses, or ways of approaching thinking about, global health.

Global Health Scholars will complete four electives that will, together with the student’s major, allow the student to achieve the six global health competencies.

The Global Health Studies Program will provide a list of courses that would satisfy each competency. Individual courses may be listed under more than one competency (e.g., a sociology course may be listed under both Historical Approaches and Health & Societies); however, completion of the course can only fulfill one competency for the purposes of GHS requirements.

Historical Approaches

Like any other field of practice, global health has histories. Putting “global health” in historical perspective points to the ways in which its evolution is neither linear nor apolitical, but instead reflects multiple world orders and ideological systems. Coursework in this area will prepare Global Health Scholars to understand the varied motivations, sociopolitical landscapes, consequences, and debates that animate the historical development of modern global health research, practices, and theories.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: What types of health problems are understood to be within the domain of global health and how has this changed over time (e.g., infectious disease, chronic disease, maternal mortality)? What are the historical origins of major international institutions, such as the World Health Organization, and how have their mandates evolved? What are the historical patterns of colonization in different regions of the world and what are their legacies in present-day global health governance? Historical approaches to this subject will reveal how changing understandings of and approaches to health, medicine, science, and bodies over time relate to the present-day global health apparatus.

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: History; History of Science and Medicine; African American Studies; American Studies; Environmental Sciences; Anthropology; Area Studies.

Health & Societies

Coursework in “Health and Societies” will introduce students to perspectives in the social sciences that examine health and medicine in social context. This competency will encourage Global Health Scholars to develop a critical and reflexive posture towards key features of human interactions that undergird research, practice, and theories in global health. A social science approach to health and medicine in global and transnational contexts will encourage students to assemble the scholarly tools to study and analyze the power relations and structural forces shaping health processes, as well as to consider how these same power relations and forces matter to the design and implementation of our interventions and to our definitions of “success” in global health.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: What are the relationships between social inequities and health inequities? What are the reasons for cross-national variation in healthcare delivery systems? What role do different therapeutic systems play in the lives of those affected by ill health in different contexts (e.g., biomedicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and others)? How might we take a systems-level approach to identifying the underlying causes of health disparities and formulating policy-level responses to ameliorate them? Coursework in this category will include social science methodologies (e.g., quantitative techniques such as population-based surveys and qualitative techniques such as ethnography) in addition to theory- and scholarship-based courses.

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: Anthropology; African American Studies; Sociology; Political Science; Human Rights; Education Studies; Psychology; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Ethnicity, Race and Migration; Ethics, Politics & Economics; Environmental Studies; Philosophy.

Performance, Representation & Health

Coursework in “Performance, Representation & Health” will introduce students to humanistic and interpretive approaches in interdisciplinary global health scholarship. Courses in this competency will address themes such as the politics of authority and expertise; art and performance as resistance; race and gender in medicine; and the politics of representation in humanitarian aid.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: How does medicine both reflect and influence understandings of human difference? Who gets to speak in the name of science? How do those affected by ill-health assert authority in matters of policy and healthcare access? How do activists use street theater, art installations, and protest imagery to challenge inequities in health? When we think about global health practice, who is portrayed as needing “rescue”? Who is portrayed as doing the “rescuing”? How might we respond to calls to decolonize global health practice and the critiques that they raise? Through these insights, students will engage with the contingencies in how we come to know and address global health questions, with a focus on inequities, as well as the processes affecting how we conceptualize the underlying causes of these inequities and their appropriate remedies.

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: American Studies; Film and Media Studies; History; History of Science and Medicine; Environmental Studies; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Ethnicity, Race and Migration; African American Studies; Art; Theater Studies; Literature; Humanities; History of Art; Anthropology; Sociology; Social and Behavioral Sciences (may be taken at the YSPH graduate level).

Understanding & Interpreting Quantitative Data

Students have the opportunity to explore various methodologies through the GHS program; in this core competency, quantitative data is taken as the focus given its importance in global health knowledge production. Understanding basic statistical concepts and their application is a critical skill for evaluating claims in global health or in any field that quantifies the uncertainty of hypotheses, thereby constraining what we think we know about a given phenomenon.

Students participating in the Global Health Scholars MAP must complete coursework that explores the following: numerical and graphical summaries of data, data acquisition and experimental design, probability, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, correlation, regression, and the misuse of statistics. These courses can take an applied or methodological approach.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: How are key indicators of population-level health defined and measured? Which determinants of health do statistical models capture well and which might they obscure? What are the orienting assumptions and theories of ill health that shape the types of questions that are asked at the outset of a new research project? What types of conclusions might be drawn as a result? How does the research process itself make some types of health claims legible, and therefore actionable? Which problems are deemed intractable or beyond intervention and why? Upon completion of this requirement, Global Health Scholars will be able to use basic statistics in the conduct of research and to read and evaluate the statistical claims made in journal articles, and they will be informed consumers of data and information in global health.

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: Computer Science; Statistics and Data Science; Economics; Ethics, Politics, & Economics; Political Science; Mathematics; Global Affairs.

Biological & Environmental Influences on Health

By analyzing how human bodies work and have evolved to function within their environment, as well as the complex molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis in a variety of life stages and disease states, scientists continue to develop treatments, prevention approaches, and interventions that have the potential to transform lifespans and health outcomes for many different populations globally. Understanding how molecular, environmental, and evolutionary factors and forces impact the health of living organisms is fundamental for developing competency in the field of global health.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: How do the behaviors of cells and molecules inside of bodies – human and animal, including insects – affect health and disease? How do the complex and mutually dependent interactions between humans and their natural environment, including water, soil, air, and living ecosystems, contribute to health and disease, at both the individual and planetary levels? What are the effects of diets, behaviors, and exposures on what happens inside a human body?  How do the principles and perspectives of evolution inform our understanding of virulence, resistance, and susceptibility to both infectious and noninfectious disease? How can the principles and tools of engineering be used, now or in the future, to address biomedical challenges and needs?

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Environmental Studies; Geology and Geophysics; Biomedical Engineering; Engineering and Applied Science; Biology; Cognitive Science; Neuroscience.

Political Economy & Governance in Health

Understanding and acting on global health requires an appreciation for the structuring influence of governance, political economy, and politics on health. Dynamics of globalization influence patterns of infectious and non-communicable disease around the world, and global health is influenced by a vast array of institutions, from the World Health Organization to local public health departments, from transnational scientific groups to grassroots activist collectives, and from formal religious structures to the structure of the family. Global health is also deeply influenced by our political economy, which shapes the role of markets and governance in health services, as well as the background distribution of resources and power that condition health outcomes.

Students will develop this competency by investigating questions such as: How is the distribution and burden of ill-health shaped by the reach of the criminal law? What are the health implications of current systems for the development of new medicines, or user fees in healthcare? How does global governance condition the transmission and treatment of disease? What, if anything, do democracy, global justice, and global health have to do with one another?

Departments and programs at Yale from which courses may be drawn for this global health competency include but are not limited to: Economics; Global Affairs; Political Science; Ethics, Politics and Economics; Human Rights Studies.