Send to

Choose Destination
Acad Med. 2016 May;91(5):628-32. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001054.

All Health Is Global Health, All Medicine Is Social Medicine: Integrating the Social Sciences Into the Preclinical Curriculum.

Author information

J. Kasper is assistant professor and chair, Faculty Advisory Committee on Global Health, Harvard Medical School, and faculty member, Division of Global Health, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, Massachusetts. J.A. Greene is associate professor of medicine and of the history of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. P.E. Farmer is Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. D.S. Jones is A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


As physicians work to achieve optimal health outcomes for their patients, they often struggle to address the issues that arise outside the clinic. Social, economic, and political factors influence patients' burden of disease, access to treatment, and health outcomes. This challenge has motivated recent calls for increased attention to the social determinants of health. At the same time, advocates have called for increased attention to global health. Each year, more U.S. medical students participate in global health experiences. Yet, the global health training that is available varies widely. The discipline of social medicine, which attends to the social determinants of disease, social meanings of disease, and social responses to disease, offers a solution to both challenges. The analyses and techniques of social medicine provide an invaluable toolkit for providing health care in the United States and abroad.In 2007, Harvard Medical School implemented a new course, required for all first-year students, that teaches social medicine in a way that integrates global health. In this article, the authors argue for the importance of including social medicine and global health in the preclinical curriculum; describe Harvard Medical School's innovative, integrated approach to teaching these disciplines, which can be used at other medical schools; and explore the barriers that educators may face in implementing such a curriculum, including resistance from students. Such a course can equip medical students with the knowledge and tools that they will need to address complex health problems in the United States and abroad.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center