Global Health Studies

Director, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs

  • Helena R. Dettmer

Director, Global Health Studies

  • Christopher A. Squier
Undergraduate minor: global health studies
Undergraduate certificate: global health studies
Graduate certificate: global health studies
Web site:

Education, research, and practice in global health places a priority on improving health and achieving equity for all people worldwide. Issues in the field include social determinants of health, health care disparities, infectious and noncommunicable diseases, environmental challenges, and human rights as well as economic development, health policy, and health systems.

The University of Iowa's Global Health Studies Program examines the complex processes influencing health and disease around the world. It considers not only the manifestations of significant diseases and public health and health care systems, but also the underlying forces and institutions—such as technology, politics, culture, legal structure, history, and economics—that collectively influence patterns of health and disease.

The Global Health Studies Program equips its students to:

  • identify the nature, magnitude, and distribution of factors that contribute to excess morbidity and mortality, including disparities in health status by gender, race, ethnicity, rural or urban location, and economic status;
  • understand how commerce, labor, food supply and sustainability, the environment, climate change and natural disasters, pharmaceuticals, international aid, human rights, and conflict may contribute to health status; and
  • be aware of and able to assess the appropriateness of intervention strategies to promote health and to address major health problems, particularly in low-resource settings, and be able to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of such interventions.

The Global Health Studies Program attracts undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from a wide range of disciplines, including international studies, anthropology, public health, health and pre-health sciences, health economics, nursing, environmental engineering, history, law, business, journalism, social work, and education.

The Global Health Studies Program is one of the academic units in the Division of Interdisciplinary Programs.

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs of Study

  • Certificate in Global Health Studies (undergraduate and graduate)
  • Minor in global health studies (undergraduate)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences grants the undergraduate certificate and minor; the Graduate College confers the graduate certificate.


The Certificate in Global Health Studies requires 18 s.h. of credit. Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 3.00 in work for the certificate.

The undergraduate certificate program is open to current University of Iowa undergraduate students and to all individuals who hold a bachelor's degree, but are not enrolled in a graduate or professional degree program. Undergraduates may earn the certificate or the minor in global health studies, but not both. Students in the College of Pharmacy who have earned the Pharm.D. degree may earn an undergraduate global health studies certificate.

The graduate certificate is open to University of Iowa graduate and professional students except for those in the College of Pharmacy who have earned the Pharm.D. degree; they are awarded the undergraduate certificate.

Admission to the certificate program is competitive. Applicants must be in good academic standing and must be able to demonstrate interest in and understanding of the field of global health. For application forms and deadline information, contact the Global Health Studies Program advisor.

Work for the certificate includes core courses, electives, an international experience that culminates in a public presentation and written report, and study of a world language. Students must earn at least 15 s.h. of credit for the certificate in courses numbered 3000 or above taken at the University of Iowa. They may choose courses offered by the Global Health Studies Program (see "Courses" below) and those offered by other departments and programs (see "Associated Courses" below).

Students may be granted credit toward the certificate for course work they completed up to two years before beginning the program. Graduate and professional students who would like to count credit from a degree program toward the global health studies certificate should consult their major academic programs.

The Certificate in Global Health Studies requires the following work.


All of these:

GHS:3010 Identifying and Developing a Global Health Project (may be repeated for elective credit)3 s.h.
GHS:3020 Proseminar in Global Health1 s.h.
GHS:3030 Global Health Conference (may be repeated for elective credit)1 s.h.
GHS:3720 Global Health Seminar3 s.h.
GHS:4210/EPID:4210/OEH:4210 International Health3 s.h.

Students complete 7 s.h. of approved electives chosen from the lists under "Associated Courses" and "Courses" below. They may petition to use other courses as electives if they can demonstrate that the courses include substantial material related to global health. Students may apply up to 3 s.h. of academic credit earned for research, internship, or study abroad experiences to the elective requirement. Contact the Global Health Studies Program for details.


Students must complete an international experience in which they systematically address an important global health issue. The experience typically takes place in an international setting and lasts eight weeks. The international experience may be completed as part of a study abroad program, a service learning course, an internship, a volunteer experience, or an independent research project.

Projects require approval by the Global Health Studies Program steering committee and must be supervised by a faculty member. Students may apply for an international travel scholarship ($1,000); other financial support may be available for some projects. Visit International Experience on the program's web site for more information.

Language Study

Students should complete four semesters of modern language study or course work that fulfills or is equivalent to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education Program World Languages requirement.

The Global Health Studies Program steering committee may require students to take additional language study in preparation for a research or internship program. Students interested in learning an infrequently taught language to facilitate their participation in an international experience should investigate the Autonomous Language Learning Network (ALLNET).

Public Presentation and Report

Certificate requirements culminate in a public presentation and report.  Each student presents the results of his or her international experience in GHS:3010 Identifying and Developing a Global Health Project or in an equivalent public forum. Students also must submit a 10-12 page report that summarizes their international experience.


The minor in global health studies requires a minimum of 15 s.h., including 12 s.h. in courses numbered 3000 or above taken at the University of Iowa. Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 2.00 in all courses for the minor and in all UI courses for the minor. Course work in the minor may not be taken pass/nonpass. Students may earn either the certificate or the minor in global health studies, but not both.

The minor is interdisciplinary, designed for undergraduates who wish to study health issues in a global context. Each student's plan of study for the minor is developed according to the student's interests and in consultation with a program advisor. Students may choose courses from those offered by the Global Health Studies Program (see "Courses" below) or by other departments and programs (see "Associated Courses" below); they should choose course work from at least two different disciplines. Students are strongly encouraged to include one of the core courses required for the Certificate in Global Health Studies in their plan of study for the minor. The program highly recommends that students complete a period of study abroad focused on global health issues.

Activities and Resources

University of Iowa global health studies faculty members conduct research at a variety of sites worldwide, including South India, Haiti, South Africa, and Romania. Students in the program are eligible to participate in experiential learning activities at those locations, as well as at other sites. A variety of funding resources are available, including the Stanley Award for undergraduate and graduate research. Contact the Global Health Studies Program for details.

Associated Courses

In addition to courses offered by the Global Health Studies Program (see "Courses" below), students may use the following courses to complete requirements for the certificate or minor.

ASP:1800 Basic Aspects of Aging3 s.h.
CBH:5205 Social Determinants of Health3 s.h.
CBH:5220 Health Behavior and Health Education3 s.h.
ECON:3760 Health Economics3 s.h.
EPLS:5195 Research in Cross-Cultural Settings3 s.h.
OEH:4240 Global Environmental Health3 s.h.
MPH:4101 Introduction to Public Health3 s.h.


Lower-Level Undergraduate

GHS:1029 First-Year Seminar1 s.h.
Introduction to intellectual life of the University; opportunity to work closely with a faculty member or senior administrator; active participation to ease transition to college‑level learning.
GHS:1100 Contraception Across Time and Cultures3 s.h.
Methods and history of contraception and abortion; issues of unwanted pregnancy and birth control in fiction, film, and media around the world. Same as WLLC:1100, CLSA:1100.
GHS:1181 Ancient Medicine3 s.h.
Thematic examination of theories and practices of Greco‑Roman physicians, which in turn became the medical tradition of medieval Islamic world and European medicine until mid‑19th century; historical medical terms, theories, and practices. GE: Historical Perspectives. Same as CLSA:1181.
GHS:2000 Introduction to Global Health Studies3 s.h.
Global health as a study of the dynamic relationship between human health and social, biological, and environmental factors that drive the spread of disease; core areas of global health research that may include health inequalities, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, nutrition, environmental health, and health interventions. Same as ANTH:2103.
GHS:2080 The Cultural Politics of HIV-AIDS3 s.h.
Complex historical shifts in cultural perceptions about HIV‑AIDS in the U.S. and transnationally; controversies around HIV‑AIDS and their links with questions of gender and sexuality; how HIV‑AIDS subsequently became the basis of a transnational industry comprising nongovernmental organizations, donors, and activists across the global north and south, starting from 1980s in the U.S. when HIV‑AIDS first emerged into public sphere as a gay disease; link between HIV‑AIDS and ideologies of development or progress, neocolonialism, and emergence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) movements in many parts of world. Recommendations: background in gender studies, and completion of Rhetoric or at least one social sciences course Same as GWSS:2080.
GHS:2150 Natural Environmental Systems3-4 s.h.
Environmental chemistry and biology of air, water, and soil quality, air and water pollution, limnology, global atmospheric change, fate and transport of pollutants; hazardous substances, risk analysis, standard setting. Prerequisites: CHEM:1110 Same as CEE:2150.
GHS:2164 Culture and Healing for Future Health Professionals3 s.h.
Health professions increasingly focused on how to best provide health care to culturally diverse populations; introduction to key cultural and social influences on sickness and healing; worldwide examples. Same as ANTH:2164.
GHS:2181 The Anthropology of Aging3 s.h.
Comparative anthropological perspective on aging; ethnographies from diverse contexts used to examine intersections of kinship, religion, health, and medicine in later life. Same as ANTH:2181, ASP:2181.
GHS:2320 Anthropological Perspectives on Human Infectious Disease: Origins and Evolution3 s.h.
Origin and evolution of important infectious diseases in human history; biological evolution of infectious agents and biocultural responses to emerging infectious diseases; primary focus on viruses and bacteria; selected world problems from an anthropological perspective; current dilemmas and those faced by diverse human groups in recent times and distant past. Same as ANTH:2320.

Upper-Level Undergraduate and Graduate

GHS:3010 Identifying and Developing a Global Health Project2-3 s.h.
Preparation for an international experience (study abroad, service learning, volunteering, internship, or independent research project); addressing a global health issue in a systematic way.
GHS:3015 Transnational Sexualities3 s.h.
How ideas about normative and nonnormative sexuality, gender/sexual identities, and related social movements travel across geographical, political, and cultural boundaries; potentials and limits of using conceptual frameworks (i.e., sexuality, gender, LGBT, queer) across the west and global south; how sexuality always intersects with race, class, nationhood, and transnational systems of power; power structures that shape gender/sexuality through a transnational approach; connection of inequalities within the United States with those across the world. Same as GWSS:3010.
GHS:3020 Proseminar in Global Health1 s.h.
Important health problems and issues of a global and interrelated nature that affect the developed and developing world.
GHS:3030 Global Health Conference1 s.h.
Annual research conference on major global health issues.
GHS:3035 Engaging in Global Health1 s.h.
How to become a participant in promoting health throughout the world; student peers and global health professionals share their experiences in global health; how professionals and volunteers work in a broad variety of settings; working with government‑based programs, international organizations (e.g., UNICEF, World Vision), health care agencies, faith‑based organizations, industry, and academic institutions; various ways to become engaged and be involved in global health.
GHS:3040 Health in Mexico3 s.h.
Use of anthropological perspectives to examine disease, healing systems, and ideas about health and the body in Mexico and its diaspora; relationships between structural conditions and historical and political transformations; ideas about gender and race; chronic and acute disease in Mexico; conquest and disease; racialized bodies; sexual health; biomedicine; shamanism; immigration and health; pollution and narcoviolence; readings in English. Same as ANTH:3111.
GHS:3050 Global Aging3 s.h.
Demographic factors that contribute to the world wide phenomena of population aging in context of WHO Active Aging and the United Nation's Principles for Older Persons frameworks. Same as SSW:3135, ASP:3135.
GHS:3060 Studies in Complementary and Alternative Medicine3 s.h.
Topics vary; may include studies in mind‑body medicine; complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); group of medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine; treatments used instead of standard ones (alternative treatments); nonstandard treatments used together with standard ones (complementary medicine); examples of CAM therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicines); approaches widely used in other parts of the world that may represent an important component of health care in a country (e.g., ayurvedic medicine in India).
GHS:3070 Hungry Planet: Global Geographies of Food3 s.h.
Societal and environmental implications of past, current, and future global food supply examined from a geographical perspective; focus on questions of who eats what, where, and why; transformative history of agriculture, modern agribusiness and alternative food supplies, geopolitical implications of food production, food scarcity and rising food costs, urban versus rural agriculture, the obesity epidemic versus malnutrition, and the future of food. Same as GEOG:3070.
GHS:3102 Medical Anthropology3 s.h.
Major theoretical, methodological approaches; international health and development; biomedicine as a cultural system; ethnomedicine; anthropology and AIDS, human reproduction, epidemiology, ethnopsychiatry. Prerequisites: ANTH:1101 or ANTH:2100 Same as ANTH:3102, CBH:3102.
GHS:3110 Health of Indigenous Peoples3 s.h.
Health problems and services for indigenous populations worldwide, from perspective of Fourth World postcolonial politics. Prerequisites: ANTH:1101 Same as ANTH:3110, AINS:3110.
GHS:3113 Religion and Healing3 s.h.
Historical evidence of religious healing in Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, and Shaman traditions. Same as ANTH:3113, RELS:3580.
GHS:3131 Health Care and Health Reforms in Russia3 s.h.
Societal changes and their continuing effect on the Russian health care system since 1991; guest lectures from public health, nursing, medicine, cultural anthropology. Same as SLAV:3131.
GHS:3141 Design With the Developing World3 s.h.
Experience working on interdisciplinary teams to solve problems of the developing world; technologies for improving water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health; community building strategies, participatory methods, other techniques essential to good design; service‑learning component. Recommendations: junior or higher standing Same as CEE:3141.
GHS:3150 Media and Health3 s.h.
Potential and limits of mass media's ability to educate the public about health; research and theory on the influence of information and entertainment media; theories, models, assumptions of mass communication in relation to public health issues. Same as JMC:3150, CBH:3150.
GHS:3151 The Anthropology of the Beginnings and Ends of Life3 s.h.
Examination of diverse understandings of birth and death, drawing on anthropological analysis of personhood, kinship, ritual, and medicine; how social inequality and new technologies shape human experience at life's margins. Prerequisites: ANTH:1101 or ANTH:2100 Same as ANTH:3151, ASP:3151.
GHS:3152 Anthropology of Caregiving and Health3 s.h.
Diverse understandings and practices of care around the world; focus on relationships between caregiving practices and health across the life course. Same as ANTH:3152, ASP:3152.
GHS:3191 Sustainable Development: India and the Global Context3 s.h.
Introduction to development in India; critical examination of current discourses on domestic sociological, economic, and ecological environmental effects of the current model of development; taught in Mysore, India.
GHS:3192 Environment and Health in Modern India3 s.h.
Introduction to India's environmental and health traditions; major contemporary scenarios; taught in Mysore, India.
GHS:3326 Infectious Disease and Human Evolution3 s.h.
Infectious disease as a central and important role in evolution of modern humans; impact of important infectious diseases on human history through primary literature. Recommendations: evolutionary theory background or interest Same as ANTH:3326.
GHS:3327 The Politics of Progress: NGOs, Development, and Sexuality3 s.h.
How nonprofit sector increasingly plays a significant role in countering socioeconomic inequalities in the United States and global south; role of nonprofit organizations in relation to governmental policies of development, transnational funders, and ideas of sexual progress; critics of development institutions' arguments that western ideas of progress impose and adversely affect groups they claim to empower, yet also may foster struggles for social justice that go beyond development policy; examination of transnational nonprofit sector in relation to gender/sexuality and how it impacts women and gender/sexual minorities around the world. Recommendations: background in gender studies or social sciences Same as GWSS:3326.
GHS:3555 Understanding Health and Disease in Africa3 s.h.
Cultural, historical, and political framework for the delivery of health care services in African nations. Recommendations: junior or higher standing Same as IS:3555, HIST:3755.
GHS:3720 Global Health Seminar3 s.h.
Local and global dimensions of health and disease. Same as ANTH:3160.
GHS:3760 Hazards and Society3 s.h.
Introduction to social science perspectives on societal responses to natural and technological hazards; risk perception and communication, disaster management, social vulnerability, and risk assessment; case studies of recent major disasters (e.g., Haiti earthquake, Tohoku earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident, Hurricane Katrina); current directions in hazards research, policy, and practice. Same as GEOG:3760.
GHS:3780 U.S. Energy Policy in Global Context3 s.h.
Historical and contemporary aspects of U.S. governmental planning and policy on a wide range of energy issues in global context. Prerequisites: (GEOG:1020 or EES:1080) and GEOG:1070 Same as GEOG:3780.
GHS:3850 Promoting Health Globally3 s.h.
Major global health threats in the United States and abroad; impact of culture, history, economics on health disparities; approaches, programs, policies to remedy them. Requirements: junior or senior standing, or certificate student Same as HHP:3850.
GHS:4000 Global Health Studies Service Learning: Local Health is Global Health3 s.h.
Service‑learning projects with local community organizations; domestic opportunities which offer global health insights.
GHS:4100 Topics in Global Health1-3 s.h.
GHS:4111 Geography of Health3 s.h.
Provision of health care in selected countries, with particular reference to the Third World; focus on problems of geographical, economic, cultural accessibility to health services; disease ecology, prospective payment systems, privatization, medical pluralism. Same as GEOG:3110.
GHS:4126 International Perspectives: Xicotepec2-3 s.h.
Introduction to providing service to a community in a less developed country; student projects intended to improve community life in Xicotepec. Requirements: P3 standing Same as PHAR:8788, CEE:4788.
GHS:4140 The Anthropology of Women's Health3 s.h.
How female gender intersects with culture, environment, and political economy to shape health and illness; reproductive health, violence, drug use, cancer; readings in anthropology, public health. Prerequisites: ANTH:1101 Same as ANTH:4140, CBH:5140, GWSS:4140.
GHS:4150 Health and Environment: GIS Applications3 s.h.
Applications of GIS and spatial analysis for studying health outcomes and exposure to environmental contaminants at different geographical scales. Same as GEOG:4150.
GHS:4160 History of Public Health3 s.h.
State‑endorsed measures to avert or control disease in society. Same as HIST:4160.
GHS:4162 History of Global Health3 s.h.
Foremost problems of health and disease in colonial and postcolonial societies; topical approach. Same as HIST:4162.
GHS:4210 International Health3 s.h.
Urgent health problems in the developing world and among disadvantaged populations in developed countries; biological, social, cultural, political aspects of international health problems; applications of research methods from epidemiology, environmental health, social sciences. Same as EPID:4210, OEH:4210.
GHS:4220 U.S. and Global Environmental Health Policy3 s.h.
Major concerns in environment and human health, legislation enacted to deal with these concerns; emphasis on contemporary issues. Offered fall semesters of odd years. Requirements: for OEH:4220OEH:4240; for CEE:4220CEE:2150 Same as CEE:4220, OEH:4220.
GHS:4230 Health Experience of Immigrants, Migrants, and Refugees3 s.h.
GHS:4275 Research Methods in Disaster Studies3 s.h.
Epidemiologic study of disasters and their health consequences; research to identify and reduce health effects, research in context of response and preparedness. Same as EPID:4520, OEH:4520.
GHS:4340 Global Health and Global Food3 s.h.
Practices, patterns, and policies that contribute to the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in wealthy populations; environmental degradation, hunger, and malnutrition among impoverished populations; strategies to meet food and agricultural needs for the world; local/global aspects or perspectives on food/health concerns for Iowa and the international community. Same as HHP:4340.
GHS:4508 Medicine and Public Health in Latin America, 1820-20003 s.h.
Survey of major topics in modern Latin American history in relation to development of medicine and public health. Same as HIST:4508.
GHS:4600 Global Health and Human Rights2-3 s.h.
Requirements: sophomore or higher standing
GHS:4605 Disease, Politics, and Health in South Asia2-4 s.h.
South Asia's long‑term success lengthening lives and stopping disease, weighed against its continuing burden of infection, violence, pollution, and class‑based suffering. Same as HIST:4605.
GHS:4990 Special Projects in Global Healtharr.
GHS:4991 Honors Thesis in Global Health Studies3 s.h.
Completion of honors thesis in consultation with a faculty mentor.


GHS:5000 Graduate Seminar in Global Health2 s.h.
In‑depth discussion and analysis of rotating topics pertinent to global health studies.
GHS:5455 Health Insurance and Managed Care3 s.h.
History and theory of insurance, comparative health systems, health systems and networks, HMOs, public health insurance, care for uninsured; emphasis on public policy. Prerequisites: HMP:5005 Corequisites: PHAR:6330 or HMP:5410 Same as HMP:5450.
GHS:6550 Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases3 s.h.
Underlying epidemiological concepts of infection disease, including causation and surveillance; prevention and control; case studies. Offered fall semesters. Prerequisites: EPID:4400 Same as EPID:6550.