Global Health: An Interdisciplinary Overview

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Course Date: 07 October 2013 to 02 December 2013 (8 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

This course proposes an overview of current global health challenges drawing on the insights of several academic disciplines including medicine, public health, law, economics, social sciences and humanities. This interdisciplinary approach will guide the student into seven critical topics in global health.

Estimated Workload: 6-7 hours/week

Course Instructors

Antoine Geissbuhler

Antoine Geissbuhler is a Professor of Medicine, Chairman of the Department of Radiology and Medical Informatics at Geneva University, Director of the Division of eHealth and Telemedicine at Geneva University Hospitals. He is also President of the executive committee of the Health-On-the-Net Foundation, and President of the International Medical Informatics Association.

He trained as a physician at Geneva University where he specialized in internal medicine, then, after a post-doctoral fellowship, became Associate Professor of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University. In 1999, he returned to Geneva to take the responsibility of medical information systems at Geneva University Hospitals. In 2005, his efforts in developing telemedicine and tele-education are recognized by the creation of the UNESCO chair for telemedicine and multidisciplinary teaching, and, in 2010, of the World Health Organization collaborating center for eHealth and telemedicine.

Author of more than 120 original scientific publications, his current research focuses on the development of innovative, knowledge-enabled information systems and computer-based tools for improving the quality, safety and efficiency of care processes, at the local level of the hospital, the regional level of a community healthcare informatics network, the implementation of the national eHealth strategy for Switzerland, at the global level with the Health-On-the-Net Foundation ( and with the development of a large telemedicine network in developing countries ( He is also leading an effort by Geneva University Hospitals to develop a world-class medical tele-expertise network.

Louis Loutan

Louis Loutan is professor in International and Humanitarian Medicine at the University of Geneva.  He is a specialist in internal medicine and tropical medicine and has a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard SPH.

He serves as head of the Department of International and Humanitarian Medicine since its creation in the Department of Community Medicine and Primary Care at the Geneva University Hospital.

He has extensive field experience in international health projects in Africa, the Balkans, Nepal and Central Asia conducting research projects and organizing training programmes. He serves as technical advisor and coordinator of training and research programmes in the family medicine reform in Bosnia & Herzegovina and in the medical education reform in Kyrgyzstan.

He has been the president of several scientific societies and currently is the president of the Geneva Health Forum, held in Geneva in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Samantha Battams

Dr Samantha Battams is Course Director, UNIGE, formerly Visiting Fellow at The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Flinders University, Australia, and consultant in global/public health.
Samantha holds a PhD in Public Health Policy from Flinders University (2008), BA (Hons) (Sociology) from the University of Tasmania (1995), BA (Psychology, Sociology) (1993) and Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management (Flinders) (2002).
Samantha entered the tertiary education sector in 2003, where she worked in the Department of Public Health and National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University in project management, teaching and research roles (2003-2010). This included curriculum development and teaching online and face-to-face courses in public health, and workforce development resources for the alcohol and other drugs sector. Recently, Samantha has worked on the Global Health Programme at The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, as Research Fellow (2011-12) and Visiting Fellow (2012-13). She worked on global health governance research and events through the Global Health Europe platform, part of the Global Health Programme. She has previously researched and developed a resource on mental health and development whilst based at the WHO Mental Health and Substance Abuse Branch (2009). She continues to work on workforce development resources in public health as a private consultant.
Prior to entering the university sector, Samantha worked in the health and community/local government sectors in Australia for 10 years, in strategic planning, programme management and community development roles (including 7 years in general practice organisations). She has served on a number of board and panels in South Australia, including the District Court of South Australia and the Occupational Therapy Board of SA.
Samantha’s interests include: social determinants of health; human rights and health; analyses of public policy and governance; the role of the European Union in global health; user/carer and NGO involvement in policy and services; inter-sectoral policy processes and collaboration; mental health and housing policies; drug and alcohol and child wellbeing and protection.

Didier Wernli

Didier Wernli is a Programme Manager at the Division of International and Humanitarian Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals and the Coordinator of the Steering Committee on global health of the University of Geneva.

Didier trained as a medical doctor at the University of Geneva. During his training Didier worked in fundamental research and experienced clinical practice and healthcare in Africa and South America. For more than one year Didier supported the work of an NGO focusing on infant nutrition. In 2010 Didier attained a Master of International Affairs (international law, economics and political sciences) from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Didier joined the Division of International and Humanitarian Medicine in 2009 where he setup a collaborative web-based platform for health professional. As Programme Manager for information and communication technology (ICT) & Global Health, Didier is leading the development of a new interdisciplinary platform – the Global Health Forum - which allows its members to collaborate and engage on global health issues.

Didier research projects focus on the impact of globalization on health. He has published several articles related to the international policy aspect of the transmission of antimicrobial resistance. His current research focuses on interdisciplinary global health education and on the use of ICT in global health.

Slim Slama

Slim Slama graduated from the University of Geneva in 1998 and subsequently specialized in Internal Medicine. After eight years in the Department of Internal Medicine, he now works in the Division of International and Humanitarian Medicine at the University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland.
He is a practicing clinician who also dedicates time to the development of international cooperation activities, including research and teaching in the field of global health.
Slim is also the Programme Director of the Geneva Health Forum, an international forum on access to health that intends to keep global health debates pragmatic and grounded in action, by giving a preeminent voice to frontliners.
Dr Slama holds a Master of Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His academic interests include the prevention and control of chronic diseases. He is currently facilitating two community projects of chronic disease research and interventions in Nepal and Tunisia. He also co-moderates a web-based community of practice focusing on chronic disease capacity development in low and middle income countries and a review on the assessment of health needs of people with chronic conditions during humanitarian emergencies.

Rafael Ruiz De Castaneda

Dr. Rafael Ruiz-de-Castaneda (Geneva, 1983) currently works as a postdoc researcher in the team of Prof. A. Geissbuhler at the service of e-Health and Telemedicine of the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) and as a scientific advisor at the Health on the Net Foundation (HON). He has a multidisciplinary and international academic and research background in biology and ecology and his main current interests are related with the development of scientific research and education in the field of health and life sciences in developing countries in Africa and South America using e-tools. Accordingly, he participates in different activities of development and monitoring of the RAFT project, the Africa Build project (EU funded) and the Mauritanian National Telemedicine Network. He also works in the Khresmoi project (EU funded) aiming at developing a health specific search engine.

He joined the team of Prof. A. Geissbuhler in August 2012 after obtaining a PhD in Disease Ecology (Microbiology and Animal Ecology) with “Summa Cum Laude” in March 2012 at the Faculty of Biological Sciences of the University Complutense of Madrid (Spain). He developed most of his research at the Department of Evolutionary Ecology of the National Museum of Natural Sciences-Superior Council for Scientific Research (MNCN-CSIC, Madrid) and at the Department of Animal Health of the Faculty of Veterinary of the University Complutense of Madrid. In addition, he partly developed his research at the Laboratory of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution of the University of Paris-Sud and at the Laboratory of Avian Microbiology at the Wesleyan University of Ohio. Dr. Rafael Ruiz-de-Castaneda authored and co-authored more than 20 scientific publications on animal ecology, most of them on the implications of bacteria and parasites on health of avian populations. Dr. Rafael Ruiz-de-Castaneda is widely interested in environmental health and infectious disease ecology, especially in aspects related with the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease. These issues have a central importance in building global surveillance to detect and prevent spillover of pathogens of pandemic potential that can move between wildlife and people.

Course Description

Course coordinators: Prof. Antoine Geissbuhler, MD, Prof. Louis Loutan, MD, Dr Slim Slama, MD and Dr Didier Wernli, MD, MA
Course director: Dr Samantha Battams, PhD
Course assistant: Dr Rafael Ruiz de Castaneda, PhD

Our globalised world has posed new challenges for global health. Infectious diseases have the potential to travel quickly and spread widely across countries (e.g. due to increased international travel). The determinants of health (such as the food system) are across country borders, leading to a growing burden in non-communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries. Issues in traditionally non health sectors such as climate change or trade can have dramatic and worldwide effects on health and health systems.

These short examples illustrate what Global Health is about:  issues that not only cross national boundaries but also disciplinary territories. In our interdependent world, more and more health issues cannot be addressed by a country nor by a sector alone and require collaboration, coordination and integration.

The course will draw from academic personnel working across disciplines and the wider community in international Geneva (e.g. international organisations, NGOs). It will utilise an ecological or 'systems' perspective, along with a social determinants and human rights approach to health.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class activities and final assessment will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructors. However, no credits will be awarded.


Week 1. Introduction to global health concepts
Week 2. Emerging trends in global health: Infectious diseases
Week 3. Emerging trends in global health: Non-communicable diseases, mental disorders and disability
Week 4. Governance for global health, health systems and financing
Week 5. Foreign policy, trade and health
Week 6. Research, development, innovation and technology for global health
Week 7. The environment, sustainable development and health
Week 8. Summary and Assignments


This course consists of the course guide, including discussion forum activities and assessments (multiple choice questions to complete every week and a final peer assessment), along with video lectures (10-20 min in length) by a range of presenters. Your enjoyment and benefits from the course will above all depend on your participation within this course, and we very much look forward to your participation through the discussion forums and peer assessment activities.

Course Workload

6-7 hours/week

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