Global-Local Course


Global Local News

Global Health in a Local Context: An Experiential Course on the Social Determinants, Community Engagement, and Social Action in Minnesota

Dates and location

This course is being held during Fall Semester 2016.  The class schedule will be as follows:

  • Immersion Initiation: September 17, 8am – 5pm
  • Weekly Meetings: Wednesdays Sept 7 to Dec 14, 5:30 to 8:30
  • Immersion Closing: December 17, 8am – 5pm

The course is "classroom-less" and entirely held in community settings such as a rural Hmong Farm, the Center for Social Healing, community health centers, the Minnesota Department of Health, and theatrical performance spaces.


  • Michael Westerhaus, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Medical School; Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health; HealthPartners Center for International Health
  • Community Faculty:
    • Mimi Oo - New Americans Alliance for Development
    • Shegitu Kebede - activist, community organizer, owner of Flamingo restaurant
    • Jennifer Hines - HealthPartners
    • MDH Refugee Health Office Team

Course description

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (CGHSR) in partnership with the organization SocMed is pleased to offer, Global Health in a Local Context: An Experiential Course on the Social Determinants, Community Engagement, and Social Action in Minnesota. This course will immerse students in the study of health equity, the social determinants of health, global health in a local setting, and community-based healthcare. The course curriculum will be modeled on the highly successful and dynamic SocMed curriculum currently utilized annually in Uganda and Haiti, which offers a highly experiential, interdisciplinary, and inter-professional study of these topics.

These topics will be examined through the lens of social medicine. Social medicine, a discipline with a rich and storied history of efforts to address the social determinants of health, has been identified by some as a particularly salient approach to engage the current collection of problems encompassed by global health. The practice of social medicine integrates the voice and vote of patients, families and communities, is multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral in its approach, ensures an equity agenda, is guided by the local context to inform global policy, and assures a deep understanding of the social determinants of health and social science towards making an immediate difference in the health and lives of patients. Successfully drawing upon the rich history of social medicine to tackle contemporary global health problems requires that the next generation of health professionals reinvigorate and re-imagine the principles and practice of global health and social medicine in partnership with patients and communities.

a small class of diverse students with the words, "Privilege", "Agency", and "Health Equity" across it.

a group of activists marching in the street. In the forefront there is a black man dressed warmly and wearing a red safety vest. He is speaking into a megaphone.Global Health in a Local Context will merge unique pedagogical approaches including community engagement; classroom-based presentations and discussions; group and individual reflection; theater, film, and other art forms; and prioritization of narrative to understand patient, community, and health professional experiences. The curriculum promotes a biosocial approach to health and illness, thereby drawing on the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, economics, history, public policy, biomedicine, public health, and the arts (literature, film, photography). These approaches create an innovative and interactive learning environment in which students participate as both learners and teachers to advance the entire class’ understanding of the interactions between the biology of disease and the myriad of social, cultural, economic, political, and historical factors that influence illness presentation and social experience of health and well-being.

In order to examine the social determinants of health, SocMed courses engage with local context through in-depth study of particular historical, political, and cultural narratives important to the locale, in this case Minnesota. The course curriculum places considerable importance on building partnerships and encouraging students to reflect upon their personal experiences with power, privilege, race, class, and gender as central to effective partnership building in the health professions and health-related fields. In the spirit of praxis (a model of education that combines critical reflection with action) these components of the course give students the opportunity to discern their role as health professionals concerned about health equity and justice through facilitated, in-depth conversations with core faculty, community members, and student colleagues.

The course content structure will be divided into the following interwoven parts:

  • Part 1 – Social Determinants of Health: Accounting for Local and Global Context
  • Part 2 – Health Interventions: Paradigms of Charity, Development, and Social Justice
  • Part 3 – Core Issues in Social Medicine: Primary Health Care, Community Health Workers, Health and Human Rights, and Health Financing
  • Part 4 – Making Social Medicine Visible: Writing, Narrative Medicine, Photography, Research, and Political Engagement

See the Program Details Document (non-credit) or PubH 7200-001 Syllabus for more detail on the scheduled topics.


Open to all UMN graduate and professional students (post-baccalaureate).  The course is also open to a members of the Twin Cities community with interest and appropriate training (e.g., health professionals).

All participants must first apply according to the Application Process outlined below. 


There are both Academic Credit and non-credit registration options available.

Academic credit

Students may be allowed to apply this program to a variety of academic requirements and should confer with their academic advisor to determine if it meets their specific requirements. Options may include:

  • School of Public: PubH 7200 - 001; 3 credits (PubH7200-001 Syllabus)
  • Dentistry Students: DPD CE Opportunity.  Contact Karin Quick at for more information.
  • Medical Students: 3rd and 4th year medical students are eligible for GMER credit (1 credit).  You must contact Shannon Benson of the Global Medical Education and Research (GMER) Program for approval and will be required to complete the requirements outlined in section VII of the PubH syllabus to receive credit. 1st and 2nd year medical students are eligible to participate as a non-credit student.
  • Others may be able to apply the experience to other requirements/electives


Participants who are not in need of academic credit can utilize this option.  A Certificate of Completion will be issued for those that complete the requirements. See Program Details Document for more details.


Program Fee: TBD for Fall 2017


Tuition for SPH Students: For those registering for PubH 7200-001, regular tuition rates apply. 

Application process

Enrollment for the 2016 offering of the course has been finalized. We do intend to offer the course again in Fall 2017 and anticipate a competetive application process. Course is limited to 30 participants, with up to 15 spots reserved for community learners.

We anticipate applications for the Fall 2017 cohort will open in April 2017. The best way to stay informed about the course and application cycles is to join our mailing list

Photo credit: SocMed and Fibonacci Blue