Global Health

Global health refers to those factors that transcend national boundaries and governments to determine the health and human security of people across rich and poor countries, and of future generations.

The determinants of health are a complex range of biological, social, economic environmental, political and other factors. These include new and re-emergent communicable diseases spread by humans or animals, and non-communicable diseases resulting from trends in lifestyle and diet influenced by global advertising and media. Factors such as the misuse of antibiotics in both rich and poor countries, which leads to drug resistance and makes treatment ineffective, restrictions on access to affordable medicines and failure to support research into diseases affecting poor people are examples of the economic determinants of global health. Pollution of oceans and global warming are examples of environmental factors that not only have a global impact but may also affect the health of future generations. Trade systems that trap some poor country producers in poverty, and consequently poor health and investment that fails to take into account the impact on health and well-being, are examples of the political determinants of global health. Biological terrorism and other threats to human security may also be considered global health issues.

In order to address these interrelated factors, new forms of global governance are required at national and international level. These must engage state, private and civic sector institutions, as well as individual citizens, in meeting these generational challenges to sustainable development, since, if they are not addressed now, they will become uncontrollable threats to the health and security of future generations.Better understanding of these determinants and measures to address them requires further research for global health and an understanding of the burden of disease in rich and poor countries in health, economic, political and social terms.

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Further Definitions


Health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO, 1948). To achieve health, societies, communities and individuals must engage in an active process to create and maintain well-being and the conditions in which it can be attained. Health is thus a co-production of many actors at every level of society and can only be maintained by continuing action to address the determinants of and threats to health.

Research for Global Health:

Research for Global Health is research undertaken in any discipline or combination of disciplines that seeks to understand the impact on health of policies, programmes, processes, actions or events originating in any sector – including, but not limited to the health sector itself and encompassing biological, economic, environmental, political, social and other determinants of global health. It should assist in developing interventions that help prevent or mitigate any adverse impact of policy on global health and contribute to the achievement of health equity and better health for all.

Burden of Disease:

Burden of Disease is a measureof the impact of ill health from a given cause (disease, injury, cause of disease, or risk factor) in a population of interest.  The overall burden of disease is usually assessed in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a time-based measure that combines years of life lost due to premature mortality and years of health lost due to time lived in states of less than full health. Analysis of a country’s, region’s, or global burden of disease can provide a comprehensive and comparable assessment of mortality and loss of health due to diseases, injuries and risk factors. This loss of years of health and life has economic consequences for families and society as well as social and political impacts.

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