Never before has the global economy served as a connection between the American desire to buy tennis shoes and the health of Indonesians. Nor could a local health issue like the risk of lung cancer for children in Detroit be investigated by looking beyond national tobacco policies.
Increased globalization in the last decades calls for new studies that explore the connections between cultures, epidemiology Prof. Mark Wilson said. Wilson will direct a global health program to address and teach School of Public Health students about the new health issues contributed to by globalization. The program, which begin this fall, will allow students to take special courses relating to global health. Students will also travel away from the classroom setting to various countries where they will participate in intervention and policy development.
“In the past, international health was based on an older model of developed countries helping underdeveloped countries, but while that is still very important, we have to look at the larger issue here,” Wilson said. “We have to look at the causal links of any part of the world.” New ways of studying health problems on the global scale can be applied to disease outbreaks such as the West Nile Virus, caused partly by mass travel. However, stopping outbreaks will still be complex.
“Finding solutions for these problems is a difficult process but the benefits in researching these causes can help us anticipate potential problems that we should be concerned with,” Wilson said.
Epidemiology student Janet Jackson, who has been working to coordinate the new program, said she expects the global health program to be successful because it targets the need for the exchange of cross-cultural support.
“Diseases don’t know any boundaries, “Jackson said. “The impact others have on our health and the impact we have on other people’s health knows no boundary either.”
Scholars involved in the public health sphere can also help global health by other means. The unprecedented information age and the influence the United States has on polices abroad should motivate scholars to become proactive and assist policy makers, Wilson said. Wilson serves on an Institute of Medicine panel on emerging diseases.
“More government officers are asking for information and we should respond simply as people who care about other people,” Wilson said.