Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

MSN Course Curriculum Insight: Understanding Global Health

Why should nursing leaders pay attention to global health issues? Learn alongside Master of Science in Nursing students as they explore this important topic.

Global health issues like infectious diseases or foodborne illnesses can become major threats to public health in the United States. The novel coronavirus outbreak is a fresh example of how quickly a health concern that originates across the globe can quickly impact American families. In today’s healthcare environment, nurse leaders must think about U.S. public health from a global perspective. Developing that important global understanding starts in nursing school.

In Walden University’s online course NURS 4210: Role of the Nurse Leader in Population Health, nursing students in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program examine public health in the global context. The online course requires students to read a section on global health in Healthy People 2020, produced by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

MSN Course Curriculum Insight: Understanding Global Health

Healthy People 2020 is an interactive online report that outlines the federal government’s 10-year goals and objectives for a healthier nation. The report tracks approximately 1,300 objectives in 42 topic areas. For example, the report identifies the following as the nation’s top global health objectives:1

  1. Reduce the number of cases of malaria reported in the United States.
  2. Reduce the tuberculosis (TB) case rate for foreign-born persons living in the United States.
  3. Increase the number of Global Disease Detection (GDD) Regional Centers worldwide to detect and contain emerging health threats.
  4. Increase the number of public health professionals trained by Global Disease Detection (GDD) programs worldwide.
  5. Increase diagnostic testing capacity in host countries and regionally through the Global Disease Detection (GDD) Regional Centers.

Read along with nursing students in the MSN program to learn more about federal priorities surrounding the topic of global health and the impact on U.S. public health:1


Improve public health and strengthen U.S. national security through global disease detection, response, prevention, and control strategies.


The health of the U.S. population can be affected by public health threats or events across the globe. Recent examples of this include the Ebola virus outbreak that began in 2014, the 2003 SARS epidemic, and the 2009 spread of novel H1N1 influenza. Improving global health can improve health in the United States and support national and global security interests by fostering political stability, diplomacy, and economic growth worldwide.

Why Is Global Health Important?

Global health plays an increasingly crucial role in both global security and the security of the U.S. population. As the world and its economies become increasingly globalized, including extensive international travel and commerce, it is necessary to think about health in a global context. Rarely a week goes by without a headline about the emergence or re-emergence of an infectious disease or other health threat somewhere in the world. The 2007 World Health Report notes that, “since the 1970s, newly emerging diseases have been identified at the unprecedented rate of one or more per year.” The Institute of Medicine’s 2003 report Microbial Threats to Health stresses that the United States should enhance the global capacity for responding to infectious disease threats and should take a leadership role in promoting a comprehensive, global, real-time infectious disease surveillance system.

Rapid identification and control of emerging infectious diseases helps:

  • Promote health abroad.
  • Prevent the international spread of disease.
  • Protect the health of the U.S. population.

The large scope of potential global public health threats is recognized in the revised International Health Regulations with its all-hazards approach to assessing serious public health threats. These regulations are designed to prevent the international spread of diseases, while minimizing interruption of world travel and trade. They encourage countries to work together to share information about known diseases and public health events of international concern.

Understanding Global Health

How does the United States help improve global health?

Many U.S. government (USG) agencies provide funding, human resources, and technical support to global health initiatives including:

  • United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
  • WHO’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
  • President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
  • Programs to address malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and tobacco use.

The United States cooperates with other countries to address priority public health issues and prepare for and respond to emerging and pandemic diseases. In February 2010, the United States announced a new Global Health Initiative, which invests $63 billion over six years to help partner countries improve health outcomes, with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns, and children. In 2014, the Obama administration launched the Global Health Security Agenda to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. As part of the Global Health Security Agenda, USG agencies are harnessing $5 billion to address Ebola preparedness overseas and at home, and are also working with other nations building capacity needed to prevent, detect, and respond to other infectious disease threats.

How does improved global health help the United States?

U.S. investments in improving health in developing countries provide significant public health benefits within the United States. Many global health issues can directly or indirectly impact the health of the United States. Outbreaks of infectious diseases, foodborne illnesses, or contaminated pharmaceuticals and other products cannot only spread from country to country, but also impact trade and travel. The United States can also learn from the experiences of other countries. Standard health measures of life expectancy and chronic disease, including depression among adults, can be compared to other Organization for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. For those countries with better health outcomes than the United States, health agencies within the United States can use these comparisons to identify ways to improve the nation’s public health.

Emerging Issues in Global Health

Globally, the rate of deaths from noncommunicable causes, such as heart disease, stroke, and injuries, is growing. At the same time, the number of deaths from infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and vaccine-preventable diseases, is decreasing. Many developing countries must now deal with a “dual burden” of disease: They must continue to prevent and control infectious diseases, while also addressing the health threats from noncommunicable diseases and environmental health risks. As social and economic conditions in developing countries change and their health systems and surveillance improve, more focus will be needed to address noncommunicable diseases, mental health, substance abuse disorders, and, especially, injuries (both intentional and unintentional). Some countries are beginning to establish programs to address these issues. For example, Kenya has implemented programs for road traffic safety and violence prevention.

Expanding international trade introduces new health risks. A complex international distribution chain has resulted in potential international outbreaks due to foodborne infections, poor-quality pharmaceuticals, and contaminated consumer goods.

The world community is finding better ways to confront major health threats. WHO, through the 2005 IHR, proposes new guidance and promotes cooperation between developed and developing countries on emerging health issues of global importance. The IHR require countries to develop appropriate surveillance and response capacities to address these health concerns. All of these issues will require enhanced U.S. collaboration with other countries to protect and promote better health for all.

Advance Your Nursing Career With an MSN Degree Online

Do you want to learn more about public health, global health, and other relevant issues facing nursing leaders in the U.S. healthcare system? Do you want to grow in your nursing career?

Furthering your college education with a master’s degree in nursing is an excellent way to expand your knowledge and gain the skills needed to advance into leadership and management roles in nursing.

The online Master of Science in Nursing degree program in Walden’s School of Nursing could be a great choice for you. You can choose from three tracks—including an RN to MSN track for students who don’t already hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Walden’s master’s program also offers a flexible online learning format—making it possible to remain in your current job while developing the skills of a nurse leader.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,