As the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa made clear, global health pandemics are a real and present danger in a world where an individual can travel from Liberia to Texas while incubating a deadly, contagious virus. It also made equally clear that access to quality health care is a question of life or death.

The UCLA International Institute has begun offering a global health minor that investigates the health implications of globalization. The minor explores the institutional, economic, logistic, legal and social challenges of global health, using a multidisciplinary lens to consider health in a global context. It’s part of the institute’s ongoing efforts to increase its offerings to the entire campus and help globalize UCLA curricula.

“Finding solutions to address pressing issues of health equity around the world benefits from the involvement of many disciplines,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, vice provost for interdisciplinary and cross campus affairs. “The breadth of UCLA’s areas of excellence allows the campus to play a key role in developing more globally aware citizens and in educating the next generation of global health leaders.”

The program’s faculty reflects its multidisciplinary approach.

The program chair is Dr. Michael Rodriguez, professor and vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and director of the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America. Among other faculty who helped develop the program are David Gere (world arts and cultures/dance), Michael Lofchie (political science) and Ninez Ponce (health policy and management).

“The UCLA global health minor is designed for students who seek a flexible set of skills for understanding the challenges of globalization and inequity as they pertain to health,” Rodriguez said.

Thus far, 50 students have subscribed to the program’s listserv, and six have declared the minor, with more anticipated.

“I think there is a strong need for this interdisciplinary field of study as people and markets are becoming globally interconnected and the transmission of disease does not stop at a country's borders,” said Betty Nguyen, a biology major who is considering declaring the global health minor. “I am excited to have the opportunity to take classes in public health, economics, sociology and international development studies to be able to analyze health care through these lenses.”

Emely Montes de Oca, a Chicana/o studies major, called the program “something completely new and fresh.”

“I was intrigued from the moment I saw it,” Montes de Oca said. “This minor is great because it’s an interdisciplinary look at a very broad and large topic, so we get to look into the many different components and specifics that make up this field.”

Coursework for the global health minor consists of one required core course ("Global Health and Development," an offering of the International Development Studies Program) and four electives. Students can choose from electives offered by the International Institute’s Global Studies Interdepartmental Program and International and Area Studies Programs, as well as a range of courses in such UCLA departments as civil and environmental engineering; community health sciences; sociology; history; molecular, cell, and developmental biology; nursing; and world arts and cultures/dance.

This is an edited version of a story posted on the UCLA International Institute website.

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Peggy McInerny