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International and Global Health (Chris Sirrs)

This seminar examines the roles played by various organisations (including international and philanthropic organisations) in promoting public health around the world in the twentieth century. It investigates the transition from an early model of ‘international health’ which promoted cooperation between countries in public health, to a wider and more diverse model of ‘global health’ in the late twentieth century where a broader range of actors were involved in efforts to eradicate/control disease, and in promoting the development of health systems. We will explore how geopolitical considerations have shaped the roles of organisations; how colonial and neocolonial frameworks of power have influenced the health of peoples in the ‘global South’; and the various different models of promoting public health which have been extended by institutions headquartered in the ‘global North’.


Seminar questions


  1. What is meant by the terms ‘global South’ and ‘global North’?
  2. Why have nation states, institutions and philanthropic organisations based in the ‘global North’ been interested in the public health of peoples in the ‘global South’?
  3. What are the major differences between ‘international’ and ‘global health’?
  4. How has the role and influence of the World Health Organisation changed since 1948?
  5. Should the efforts of the international community be focused on the control or elimination of disease in the ‘global South’, or on the financing and development of health systems? Discuss.


Required readings

Martin D. Dubin, ‘The League of Nations Health Organization’, in International Health Organisations and Movements, 1918-1939, ed. Paul Weindling, Cambridge History of Medicine (Cambridge; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1995). [Available as an e-book through the library catalogue]


John Manton, ‘Global Public Health’, in Virginia Berridge, Martin Gorsky and Alex Mold (eds), Public Health in History (2011), pp. 179-94. [e-book]


Theodore M. Brown, Marcos Cueto, and Elizabeth Fee, ‘The World Health Organization and the Transition From “International” to “Global” Public Health’, American Journal of Public Health 96, no. 1 (1 January 2006): 62–72,


Nitsan Chorev, The World Health Organization between North and South (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012), Chapters 1–2. [e-book]


Further readings


Randall M. Packard, ‘Malaria Dreams: Postwar Visions of Health and Development in the Third World’, Medical Anthropology 17, no. 3 (May 1997): 279–96,


Randall M. Packard, A History of Global Health: Interventions into the Lives of Other Peoples (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).


Marcos Cueto, Theodore M. Brown, and Elizabeth Fee, The World Health Organization: A History, Global Health Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).