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U student Christy Boraas with residents of a village in Ghana.

U student Christy Boraas worked on an HIV prevention program in Ghana for two months while earning her master's degree in public health. She helped evaluate a community-based female condom promotion.

Going global

By Nicole Christiansen

From eNews, June 23, 2005

Students in the School of Public Health are going global. They wanted to learn more about international public health, and the school's public health officials knew that the world--especially after last year's devastating tsunami--needed their help. The University of Minnesota has responded by introducing a global health interdisciplinary concentration.

"If we have learned anything about public health, it is that disease and illness know no national or class boundaries," says interim dean John Finnegan, Jr. "What happens in the rest of the world is important to Minnesota. This global health concentration assures that we don't lose that focus and [it] provides our students an opportunity to understand public health in its broadest perspective."

So far, more than 40 students have shown interest in the global health concentration, which is comparable to a minor. (Some of the students are going abroad this summer.) Because the University participates in an international internship arrangement called the Global Experience Program, partnerships in some countries have already been set up.

Ian Greaves, an associate professor in the U's School of Public Health, played a major role in establishing the program's curriculum. Students must complete 12 credits of course work in global health; 10 of those credits are electives that span several University programs. Students must also participate in a field experience either in the United States or overseas.

"Global health is so broad that we can't really prescribe a lot of things," Greaves says. "We wanted to give students the flexibility to design programs that meet their needs."

Students who choose to stay in the United States are likely to focus on immigrants, migrant workers, and traveling U.S. residents--people who could potentially bring established or developing infectious diseases into the country, says Greaves. Students who wish to conduct fieldwork overseas are encouraged to travel primarily to developing countries where English is spoken, such as southern India, Nepal, and the Philippines. Some faculty members are working to develop other collaborative programs in Africa and Latin America.

"It doesn't cost a lot for students to live overseas for a couple of months; the big cost is travel," says Greaves. Round-trip flights to Southeast Asia usually run about $1,500 and living expenses range from $500 to $600 a month.

To learn more about the program, see the School of Public Health Web site.

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