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Glob Public Health. 2014;9(5):475-80. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2014.897361. Epub 2014 May 13.

Locating global health in social medicine.

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a School of Public Health , University of California Berkeley , Berkeley , CA , USA.


Global health's goal to address health issues across great sociocultural and socioeconomic gradients worldwide requires a sophisticated approach to the social root causes of disease and the social context of interventions. This is especially true today as the focus of global health work is actively broadened from acute to chronic and from infectious to non-communicable diseases. To respond to these complex biosocial problems, we propose the recent expansion of interest in the field of global health should look to the older field of social medicine, a shared domain of social and medical sciences that offers critical analytic and methodological tools to elucidate who gets sick, why and what we can do about it. Social medicine is a rich and relatively untapped resource for understanding the hybrid biological and social basis of global health problems. Global health can learn much from social medicine to help practitioners understand the social behaviour, social structure, social networks, cultural difference and social context of ethical action central to the success or failure of global health's important agendas. This understanding - of global health as global social medicine - can coalesce global health's unclear identity into a coherent framework effective for addressing the world's most pressing health issues.


global health; globalisation; social determinants of health; social medicine; social science

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