Future Challenges in Global Health

Course code:
Period 1
Language of tuition:
Faculty of Science
dr. N. Blignaut-van Westrhenen
dr. N. Blignaut-van Westrhenen
prof. dr. J.E.W. Broerse
dr. D.R. Essink
Teaching method(s):
Study Group, Lecture,

Course objective

• The student can list the five future challenges in global health and
classify examples of health problems under each of these challenges.
• The student can explain how new developments in health and life
sciences interact with global health challenges.
• The student can examine different policies developed at both the
national and international level to address global health challenges.
• The student can compare policy-making processes between countries and
the different visions that exist on policy.
• The student can apply certain methods, such as causal analysis and
document review to perform a policy analysis within a team of students,
on a real-world global health challenge.
• The student can develop a policy brief on the basis of different
sources of information (policy documents, scientific publications, grey
literature), justify and present a synthesis of his/her findings
verbally and in written form.

Course content

The course ‘Future Challenges in Global Health’ is the first course
within the minor ‘Biomedical and Health Interventions’ as well as the
minor 'Global Health'
of the Bachelor’s programs Health Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and
Health & Life (and other health-oriented Bachelors programs).

The world of biomedical and healthcare interventions is in constant flux
– new and emerging infectious diseases, changing disease patterns,
demographic changes, rising costs of health care; all of which add
complexity to the already considerable challenges. At the same time,
some innovative answers to these challenges have emerged, such as novel
pharmaceuticals, neurotechnologies, gene therapy, e-Health and m-Health
(e.g. using a smart phone as a heart rate monitor or as a tool in losing
weight or enhancing physical activity), and field test kits replacing
entire laboratories. This begs the question: How can we make these
answers fit the challenges, which are constantly emerging? History
reveals a number of health interventions, which have shown to not be
that effective, as well as a numerous unintended consequences (for
example how does an anti-malaria campaign lead to collapsing roofs and
to cats being parachuted over Borneo?). This course explores how we can
learn from these experiences, and use the evidence on effective
biomedical and health care interventions to develop better health

The beginning of the course provides you with an overview of both
current and future challenges, in addition to scientific advancements in
global health. We will also study how various countries and
organizations, like the WHO, UN, and EU have addressed and dealt with
these challenges, and why their policies have (not) been effective. We
will use policy models to analyse real-world problems, solutions and
policies (e.g. intervention programs). Addressing challenges in global
health means both having a thorough knowledge of the health problem and
potential interventions and perhaps more crucially, to understand the
policy process and gain insight into how interventions can be
effectively put into practice.

A prominent example of this is the following. We know there is an ideal
intervention to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS: a condom. Yet, the
disease still spreads, and this is not due to a lack of knowledge. This
leaves us with lingering questions such as when is scientific knowledge
important? Where do politics come in? Do we need to involve more people
in setting up health interventions? Do we need to work in public-private

In the practical part of the course, you will use your newly acquired
knowledge and apply it in small project teams. As researchers with a
thorough knowledge on a particular global health challenge (e.g. poor
maternal health outcomes in women in a low-income country like Tanzania,
or the effects of climate change on population health) you will write a
policy brief, with the ultimate aim to influence policy-making on this
health challenge. By doing this, you will learn to work with the
interdisciplinary practice of policy research and project management.
The problem, as well as the policy and legislative context in which the
selected global health challenge occurs, should be critically analysed
and written down in a concise, to the point policy brief and presented
to other course participants.

Form of tuition

Lectures (18 hrs), training workshop (2 hrs), working groups assignment
(16 hrs), self study (125.5 hrs), exam (2.5 hrs)

Type of assessment

Written exam (50%) and assignment (50%). Both parts need to be passed.

Course reading

Selected materials are made available through Canvas.

Entry requirements

The couse is open to students in the bachelor programs Biomedical
Sciences, Health & Life, Health Sciences, Medicine, Human Movement
Science, bachelor programs in the natural sciences and any other
bachelor program where students have background knowledge of the health

Target audience

Course for students within the minor Global health and the minor
Biomedical and health interventions.


Part of the minor Global health and the minor Biomedical and health
This minor course requires a minimum of 25 participants to take place.

© Copyright VU University Amsterdam
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