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  • Understand the history of global health and the role of forces and interventions that have helped shape the current state of health in the world
  • Identify and discuss the major health problems and challenges facing the world today
  • Propose and discuss suitable and promising solutions for these challenges to be considered by policymakers, planners, and health workers around the world

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There are many different views on the definitions of “global health.” To emphasize the need for collaborative actions across nations and geographic boundaries, Beaglehole and Bonita1 proposed that Global Health is “collaborative trans-national research and action for promoting health for all.” Other authors2 have defined it as “health issues that transcend national boundaries and governments and call for actions on the global forces that determine the health of people.” Still others3 consider it to be the “worldwide improvement of health, reduction of disparities, and protection against global threats that disregard national borders.” Koplan and colleagues4 suggest that “The Global in global health refers to the scope of problems, not their location. Thus … global health can focus on domestic health disparities as well as cross-border issues.” They propose that “global health is an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide.”

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Although there is considerable overlap in the framework for action provided by several of the definitions, some experts make a distinction of terms with the assertion that international health primarily focuses on health issues in low-income countries, whereas public health focuses on the health of the population of a specific country or community. Others,5 however, challenge such distinctions and contend that global, international, and public health all attempt to address the same underlying social, economic, and environmental factors that affect the health of populations whether locally, nationally, or globally.

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Throughout human history, numerous advances have improved the quality and longevity of life around the globe. Dating back to ancient civilizations, there is evidence of societies working to improve the health of the general public. The Babylonian sewage systems were among the first designed to protect the water supply from contamination and disease. The discovery of pasteurization by Louis Pasteur in the 1860s helped to ensure the safety of food supplies throughout the world. With the implementation of the constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, the mass tuberculosis (TB) immunization campaign with bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine in 1950, and the onset of the Malaria Eradication Program in 1955, many of the important developments related to global health in modern times occurred in the post–World War II period of the 1940s and 1950s. In 1980, smallpox was officially eradicated from the planet, and although polio and measles have not yet been eradicated, rapid progress is being made globally toward the goal of entirely protecting children and communities from these once debilitating diseases.

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