PH511: Introduction to International Health

Introduction to International Health (PH511):
Pathogens, Poverty, and Populations
(Spring Semester)

Are you interested?
Can you make a difference?
How do you decide what is “the right thing to do”? 

  • Should we allow the banned pesticide DDT to be used for malaria control in developing countries? If so, when? Who will oversee its use?
  • How much effort should be put into treatment of HIV as opposed to prevention? Will resources devoted to treatment detract from prevention?
  • Male circumcision reduces transmission of HIV, but is this an effective strategy for intervention? How will it be introduced and delivered? How many men will step forward for circumcision?
  • What priority, and resources, should be devoted to hospitals, as opposed to primary care facilities?  What should the role of a hospital be?
  • In a world still plagued by under-nutrition and lack of food, why has obesity become a major problem in many developing countries?
  • Road traffic accidents are now the third cause of death in Zambia, right up with malaria and HIV/AIDS – what can the public health authorities do?
  • How would an influenza pandemic affect developing countries? What is the best international response? Should we restrict or ban international travel? Who should get priority for drugs and vaccines?

The answers are not straightforward – but they are important … and pressing. If you are considering a career in medicine, nursing, international relations, business, or communications – or if you want to be an informed world citizen – you should consider this course. It will explore these and other major health issues in the developing world, and it will weigh the options for making a difference.

You will be expected to participate in this class. We want you bring both factual information and creative ideas to the discussions. You will work in groups on “disease in a nutshell” presentations on the key diseases and conditions of the developing world.  The final “exam” will be a poster session in which you will both present and review posters on a variety of international health topics. One session will be devoted to careers in international health – finding a job, what it’s like to work abroad, and how to get started.  

Instructor: Professor Susan Foster from the Department of International Health in the BU School of Public Health, who has extensive experience with health programs and research in the developing world. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the course and whether it would be a good fit for you, please email Professor Foster at


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