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Global Health VS International Medicine

Well-meaning people continually inquire about the terminology associated with global health. Their inquiry is not just hair-splitting. Terminology may be subtlety different, and yet the meanings conveyed be profoundly divergent. And so consider these terms: global health, international health, international public health, and international medicine.


In common usage, global health and international health best refer to the overall health status of the people being considered. These people may be wealthy or advantages, or impoverished. Leaders in this field usually focus on the needs of people who are most disadvantaged, for enormous wealth and knowledge benefit the world’s affluent people, while some three billion persons subsist on less than US $2.50 per day. Global health and international health tend to focus on the factors of economics, literacy, education and public policy, in addition to more traditional ‘health’ factors.


International public health and international medicine, by contrast, are fields that focus more on the roles of the disciplines of public health and medicine, and on how these disciplines interface for the benefit of disadvantaged people.


The caution I constantly urge for people in the fields of international public health and international medicine is that they do not allow their disciple itself to limited the actions or innovations that may be necessary to succeed in the overall goal of health improvement. Hence, global health or international health should remain the goal of us all, regardless of training or discipline.

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