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Global health beyond geographical boundaries: reflections from global health education
  1. Sibylle Herzig van Wees1,
  2. Hampus Holmer2,3
  1. 1UGHRIS - Uppsala Global Health Research on Implementation and Sustainability, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Center for Policy Impact in Global Health, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sibylle Herzig van Wees; sibylle.herzigvanwees{at}

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Summary box

  • Our experience suggests that global health is often taught as ‘public health somewhere else’.

  • However, the experience and demands of global health students and pressing global health issues in all settings require a different approach.

  • We, therefore, suggest that a more useful definition of global health is to move beyond the notion of geographical boundaries, with ‘global’ instead referring to a holistic, multidisciplinary perspective of health.

  • We suggest that current global health educational practices include a broader disciplinary scope and focus on educational examples from throughout the world, including one’s own local context.


As global health educators and researchers from Sweden, we read King and Koski’s1 argument that global health should be defined as ‘public health somewhere else’ with interest and recognition. Often, global health has been and still is being taught and practised precisely in this way, too often without critical reflection about expertise, accountability and inefficiency, as pointed out by the authors. From our experience of teaching global health, two themes both confirm and challenge the notion of global health as public health somewhere else: the experience and demands of global health students, and the existence of global health problems in our local setting. In this commentary, drawing on examples from global health education, we call for an urgent revision of current teaching practices. In order to do so, we propose a reframing of the global health definition with a move away from a focus on geographical boundaries and instead focus on the global scope of the discipline.

Experiences from global health education

Global health curricula often focus on health issues not only ‘somewhere else’, but specifically in low-income countries. In our global health teaching, we often encounter students from low-income countries who are disappointed to learn about their countries of origin—of which they may be the true experts. While originating from …

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