Global Health in a Local Context

A group of course participants walks through a path lined by tall grass

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.

Praxis, Personal, Partnership are in circles with arrows pointing between them

The Global Health in a Local Context course utilizes a highly experiential, interdisciplinary, and interprofessional study model, 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.

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.


A thought bubble in a green circle

"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



Global Health in a Local Context Instructors

  • 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
    • Madhuri Shors - Chief Psychiatrist, UMN Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC)



A thought bubble in a green circle

"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, Minnesota Department of Health



Discover How to Apply

The Global Health in a Local Context course will not be hosted in the Fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation and the highly experiential nature of the course. We are, however, hoping to make plans to host the course in the Spring of 2021. Application instructions will be added to the course page once available. Join our Global Health in a Local Context mailing list if you are interested in the course and you would like us to send you more information regarding registration and details as it becomes available.

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  • 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 experience in health-related careers.
  • All participants must apply, and have instructor approval, before they will be able to register. 

Credit & Requirements

Credit & Requirements

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

Academic Credit

Academic credit is available to graduate students under PubH 6713 (3 credits). It is up to the student to confer with their academic unit to determine if it meets their specific program requirements.

Students may be allowed to apply this program to other academic requirements per approval by their unit. Options may include:

  • Dentistry Students: DPD CE Opportunity.  Contact Karin Quick at [email protected] for more information.
  • Pharmacy Students: Course may qualify as pharmacy elective credit when enrolled in the PubH 6713 course. Contact Prosperity Eneh at [email protected] for details.
  • The course meets the requirement for the Health Equity Minor in the School of Public Health.


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.

Medical Students: Medical School credit is not available for this program at this time. However 2nd, 3rd and 4th year Medical Students are welcome as non-credit students. Please discuss implications of fitting this extracurricular program and requirements into your schedule with your faculty advisors. Considerations by year:

  • 2nd year -  Students are still responsible for their required courses. Please be mindful of your semester course and exam schedule with this Wednesday night class schedule.
  • 3rd & 4th year - Students are required to attend their scheduled rotations, so appropriateness depends on schedule. Fourth year students additionally need to consider travel schedule for residency interviews.


All students are expected to miss no more than two class sessions and to complete the the following assignments:

  • Bi-Weekly Journal
  • Knowing Yourself and Others – Building Social Cohesion Activities

Additionally, students seeking credit under PubH 6713 must complete the following additional requirements:

  • Refugee Health and Advocacy Project
  • Final Exam

Program Fee

Program Fee

  • The Program Fee is $500.
  • For students registering for PubH credit, regular tuition rates apply in lieu of program fee.
  • We do not want financial considerations to stop someone from applying. If there are extenuating circumstances that warrant a program fee adjustment, please contact us.

Dates and Location

Dates and Location

The class is held on Wednesday evenings, with three Saturday Immersion days. 

Example Schedule

  • Weekly Meetings: Wednesdays from 5:30pm to 8:30 pm
  • Immersion Day 1: Saturday at a Hmong Family Farm
  • Immersion Day 2: Saturday at Bdote Sacred Sites Tour
  • Immersion Day 3 and Closing Session: Saturday at the Center for Social Healing

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



The Global Health in a Local Context course will not be hosted in the Fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation and the highly experiential nature of the course. We are, however, hoping to make plans to host the course in the Spring of 2021.

Course enrollment is limited to 30 participants, with up to 15 spots reserved for community learners. Students taking the course for credit must first fill out the application. Following review, they will be given permission to register in OneStop. 

Application Process

  1. Fill out an online application.
  2. Initial application review will begin in June, and then continue on a rolling basis.
  3. Once accepted, program staff will provide participants with instructions on how to complete the registration.
  4. If the course is full, applications will remain open until a sufficient wait list is obtained.