Global-Local Course

Global Health in a Local Context: An Experiential Course on the Social Determinants, Health Equity, and Leading Change in Minnesota

Dates and location

This course will be offered during Fall Semester 2018.  The class schedule will be as follows:

  • Weekly Meetings: September 5 - December 12, 2018 (No class on Oct 17 and Nov 21)
  • Immersion Day 1: September 15, 2018
  • Immersion Day 2: October 6, 2018
  • Immersion Day 3: December 15, 2018

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


  • Primary Instructor: Michael Westerhaus - Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Medical School; Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health; HealthPartners Center for International Health; Co-Director of SocMed
  • Community Instructors:
    • Jennifer Hines - Medical Director, HealthPartners Midway Clinic
    • Amy Finnegan - Chair, Justice and Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas; Co-Director of SocMed

Application and eligibility

Course description

Global Health in a Local Context: An experiential course on the social determinants, health equity, and leading change in Minnesota immerses students in the study of health equity, the social determinants of health, the principles and practice of global health in a local setting, and community-based healthcare. The course utilizes a highly experiential, interdisciplinary, and interprofessional study model.

Global Health in a Local Context is highly interdisciplinary, drawing from myriad fields of study, and merges unique pedagogical approaches, including community engagement; presentations and discussions; group and individual reflection; theater, film, and other art forms; and prioritization of narrative to understand the patient, community, and health professional experiences.

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

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. 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.


Student Experience

"Health and disease don’t exist in a vacuum. They are heavily influenced by family, community, culture, history, politics, and economic conditions. That’s the proposition at the center of a new U of M course, Global Health in a Local Context, that encourages participants to think globally, even at home." 

Read the full article

"It was such an honor to  be in this class. Having people from very different cultures and backgrounds come together and share their experiences and ideas in a safe and judgment-free zone was huge. Also, having class in different communities allowed me to see and experience each area while we learned its history and reality."

Hawa Jama, Community Health Worker, HealthPartners

"Dr. Westerhaus's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm made the class a pleasure. I have certainly learned a lot about social determinants of health and health equity through the lens of social medicine and the roles structural violence, social movements, race and racism, and power and privilege play, as well as the impact of neoliberal economics on health."

Sonia Chowdhury, International Medical Graduate; Health Program Representative, MDH


  • Open to all UMN graduate and professional students (post-baccalaureate).
  • The course is also open to members of the Twin Cities community with interest and appropriate training (e.g., health professionals).
  • All participants must apply, and have instructor approval, before they will be able to register. 


This course has both academic credit and non-credit registration options. 

Academic credit

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

Options may include:

  • School of Public: 3 credit PubH Course awaiting approval
  • Dentistry Students: DPD CE Opportunity.  Contact Karin Quick at for more information.
  • Medical Students: awaiting approval
  • Others may be able to apply the experience to other requirements/electives, per approval by their unit.


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.


Program Fee

TBA for non-credit students (i.e. learners NOT enrolling in PubH Course)


For students registering for academic credit, regular tuition rates apply.


Applications for the 2018 Global Health in a Local Context course will open in April 2018. Each fall, course enrollment is limited to 30 participants, with up to 15 spots reserved for community learners. 

The best way to be informed when application opens is to join our mailing list.