From Education to Practice: Perspectives on the Global Health Employment Landscape
Annalise Mathers and Hayley Mundeva
While rapid globalization presents enormous opportunities for economic growth, it also sets forth some challenges, including risks to our health systems. As we have seen with diseases such as Ebola or Zika, health issues are no longer localized to one area, but rather have the potential to spread quickly across borders.
Although these health issues themselves are not new, the field of Global Health continues to struggle to this day to find an established definition of this area of practice. Koplan et al. have commented that “if we do not clearly define what we mean by Global Health, we cannot possibly reach agreement about what we are trying to achieve, the approaches we must take, the skills that are needed, and the ways that we should use resources.”
Such a statement has had widespread impact in the Global Health field, as it highlights how there is still lack of clarity and understanding surrounding what employment opportunities exist for Global Health professionals today.
And given the complex nature of these health issues, professionals from diverse disciplines of practice – including medicine, policy, social sciences, law, economics, environmental science, and engineering, among many others – are needed to navigate these challenges.
So, what employment opportunities exist in Global Health today then?
To better understand this, we need to first take a quick step back to understand the underlying mission of Global Health. The true aim of Global Health is to ensure that every person in the world is as healthy as possible. It’s a field where people from different disciplines come together to improve the health and well-being of people worldwide. In this sense, Global Health professionals often have an overarching goal: to ensure that every person in the world has a fair chance at good health.
Given this context, many opportunities exist for people wanting to pursue Global Health work. At the same time, it is of the utmost importance that Global Health education, training, and employment are well integrated. Opportunities to study Global Health at university have grown significantly in recent years, both in Canada and around the world. This growth has occurred alongside the need for Global Health professionals in the workforce.
For example, the number of universities offering Global Health programs and degrees has surged in recent years. Between 2001 and 2011, it is estimated that the number of comprehensive Global Health programs offered in the United States rose from 6 to 78. This increase has been mirrored in Canada; while there is little data on the Global Health sector specifically, in 2000 there were only five schools of public health (a major focus area in Global Health). By 2011, this number had increased to 15 schools of public health and 500 new graduates annually. Currently, as of 2018, there are 36 faculties across 32 universities offering public health-related programs.
Meanwhile, the WHO’s Human Resources for Health report notes that the growth of the health workforce is expected to grow by 55% from 2013 to 2030 – a staggering increase from 43 million to 67 million workers. Further projections suggest the need for approximately 40 million new health and social care jobs, yet we are currently on track to an 18 million health worker deficit by 2030.
One of the greatest challenges for individuals seeking Global Health opportunities is navigating the expanding career options this field encompasses. Most Global Health positions today are located within non-profit and governmental settings; a smaller subset lie within for-profit, hospital, university, and think tank organizations.
What’s more, most Global Health jobs require a significant amount of mid-to-high level work experience, effectively shutting new graduates out of job positions. Global Health professionals typically require Master’s degree level qualifications, international work experience, and project management experience in specific topic areas of work, such as HIV/AIDS or Maternal, Child and Newborn Health (MNCH).
Global Health professionals can apply several tactics to overcome this and find the jobs they are looking for. For example, networking events are great ways to gain professional connections, while volunteering can be a way to acquire skills and exposure. And while often forgotten, establishing a strong understanding of organizations working on key Global Health topics is essential to finding one’s place in the employment landscape.
For example, consider some of the topic areas in the table to the right and corresponding organizations that focus on them.
Overall, Global Health is filled with opportunities and will without a doubt continue to grow as a major field of employment. Emerging professionals should test out different strategies, with various Global Health organizations, to find the jobs that best fit their skill set and values as well as the environment where they can make the most impact. Moreover, there is a substantial opportunity and need to build infrastructure to help connect new graduates with the Global Health organizations. At ThriveHire, we’re looking to do just that!
For more information, see our website at www.thrivehire.org!
Annalise Mathers is a Research Officer at ThriveHire, and holds a Master of Public Health from Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Biomedical Science from the University of Ottawa. She has experience working as a Global Health professional and qualitative researcher in the fields of occupational health and safety, the Sustainable Development Goals, tobacco control, medication management and health ethics. Annalise's work has been published widely across academic journals, blogs, newspapers, policy reports, and other media. She has a passion for public health journalism and facilitating interdisciplinary learning opportunities.
Hayley Mundeva is the Founder and CEO of ThriveHire, an online career platform for the Global Health community. Before this, Hayley worked for 4 years on Global Health research projects in Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia. She has 2 degrees in Global Health and is a certified trainer in social entrepreneurship. Despite starting her career in research, Hayley was surprised to find little information on ways to launch and develop a Global Health career. This is what sparked her interest in foundingThriveHire. Since then, Hayley and her team have been working with organizations including Save the Children, CARE and Cuso International, and were recently awarded the National Innovation Award by the United Nations Association in Canada and the British Council Canada. In her presentation, Hayley will discuss strategies and tips that emerging professionals can use to help land Global Health jobs.