The Public Health vs. Global Health dilemma: choosing your program

Still haven’t made up your mind on whether you want to apply for the Global Health or the Public Health Sciences masters programs at KI? I will try to help you out! Ever since I began my studies in Global Health, it is not uncommon to hear colleagues from both programs saying they hesitated to choose between the two. As they are both offered by the same department – formerly the department of Public Health Sciences and now the Department of Global Public Health – they surely have many similarities, complementary discussions and a shared field for working after studies are over. So, where do we go from here?

Program Duration

First of all, the most obvious difference: Global Health is a one year program, meaning it makes up for 60 ECTS, whereas Public Health Sciences (in both tracks) takes two years to complete the 120 ECTS required to graduate.

For many people, the time period required to obtain a degree was, on its own, enough to settle the discussion on what to choose. For me, for example, a one year program fit perfectly my plans for studying abroad. For others I’ve talked to, on the other hand, two years fit their plans better as well as wishes to have more courses and time to deepen discussions.

Public Health

Should you decide to follow the path of Public Health, a second decision will have to be made during your application: which track to follow. “Public Health” actually refers to two different programs. Both Masters start off as one, until the class is divided into two specializations: Public Health Epidemiology and Health Promotion and Prevention. Still, the choice has to be made as you apply. To look more closely into your possibilities within these two tracks, there’s good information to be found here, on the public health students’ blogs.

Overall, both tracks will cover (among other things) general concepts and theories key to Public Health, research methodology, data analysis and policy and intervention assessment. The common courses include:

  • Public health sciences – concepts and theories
  • Methods for studying the distribution of health;
  • Biostatistics (1 and 2!)
  • Collecting and organizing epidemiological data
  • Theory of Science
  • Epidemiological methods for studying determinants of health
  • Qualitative methods
  • Project management
  • Epidemiological methods for outcome evaluation of public health interventions
  • Degree project in Public Health Sciences

Then, the Epidemiology track students will have courses mainly focused on applying epidemiological knowledge to different public health problems and evaluating interventions implemented as part of public health work. As for the Health Promotion and Prevention path, the prime focus is on theories and their application in health promotion work and prevention, which means working on the abilities needed to develop, plan, implement and evaluate these interventions. So, no, this is not a specialization in the Swedish healthcare system, as it is also common to wonder. Official and more detailed information on both tracks – as well as the full study plan for them – can also be found on the program syllabus (available here)

Global Health

On the Global Health Master’s syllabus (found here), it is said that “Research in Global Health is multidisciplinary in orientation with three important pillars: public health research, clinical research, and translational research. The focus is on distribution and determinants of health, diseases and injuries in populations with different social, economic and cultural characteristics” (emphasis mine). So, both areas are incredibly entwined and any of these master’s will allow its graduates to, later on, work similar jobs and carry out research in shared topics.

Unlike the Public Health master’s, however, it seems the Global Health program here at KI focuses less on deep discussions about the assessment of health problems and further intervention and implementation of policies (although we do have courses to cover and debate more briefly on it!) and more on how these problems are distributed globally, the reasons for it, what kinds of intervention can be done on this larger and more diverse scale and with what international actors we would be dealing. As the name makes pretty obvious: the international/global perspective in health is the prime focus of this program.

The Global Health courses are divided in:

  • Global Health (introduction)
  • Research methodology
  • Health policy, management and economics
  • Infectious diseases – a challenge to global health: clinical, social and preventive aspects
  • Non-communicable diseases, injuries, natural emergencies and conflicts in a global health perspective
  • Maternal and child health in a global perspective
  • Degree project in global health

For the first Global Health module, if you’re curious about what it is, there’s a review on this year’s course and you can find it by clicking here

Still on the fence?

If you’re struggling to make up your mind, know that this is completely normal and many others share this indecisiveness with you. Between the different study plans, application forms, time constraints, moving anxiety and everything that is part of this process, a unrushed and informed decision is what you should go for. I hope I could help you out a little bit by breaking down some information on the courses and I’ll suggest taking a look on other blogs for more detailed experiences with courses and living in Stockholm. Finally, at least as far as these programs are concerned, there are so many similar topics covered and shared working/research opportunities, that, regardless of your decision, eventually you will find your way to where you want to go in the field (even if you don’t know where that is yet)!

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