The Global Health Programme is expanding its students’ perspectives on well-being

Professor Anneli Milén and University Instructor Mikko Perkiö are aiming to make students graduating from the international Master’s Degree Programme in Public and Global Health understand the various issues that influence people’s health as a whole, including issues beyond health services. The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tampere in Finland is organising the programme as a part of its health sciences studies.

Professor Anneli Milén and University Instructor Mikko Perkiö are aiming to make students graduating from the international Master’s Degree Programme in Public and Global Health understand the various issues that influence people’s health as a whole, including issues beyond health services. The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tampere in Finland is organising the programme as a part of its health sciences studies.

Health is not only a medical matter; it is also a social one. It is only in recent years that international debate has started to turn to the links between the health of people living in both the global north and the global south and global politics, economics, governance and globalisation. The University of Tampere is strengthening its teaching on global health and development in line with this change.

Global Health and Development (GHD) programme the University of Tampere is offering is unique in Finnish universities, and the GHD study programme is organised to have a university-wide scope. In fact, the perspective it offers is rare even internationally.

“We talk about urban planning, opportunities to influence democratic decision-making, decreasing poverty, improving the position of women and access to drinking water – about all the things that have an impact on the health of populations and individuals and the well-being of people and communities,” says Anneli Milén who is currently in charge of the GHD programme.

According to Milén, a further key issue is that the world is being thought of as global rather than strictly divided into developing and industrialised countries.

“For instance, the gap between the health of the well-to-do and the poor is widening in both the global south and global north. Obesity and the excessive use of pharmaceuticals and smoking, which are spreading because of massive advertising campaigns, are problems everywhere. The downsides of globalisation, such as the accumulation of wealth and influence in the hands of the few and the growth of multinational corporations, have an indirect impact on people’s health everywhere.”

The strategic strengths of Tampere3 meet in the GHD programme

“Health is part of the social well-being of people and societies, and that is why education and research should approach this topic from a multidisciplinary perspective,” Milén adds.

Multidisciplinarity also means cooperation between higher education institutions. Milén and University Instructer Mikko Perkiö are both enthusiastic about the opportunities created by the merger of the three universities in Tampere. Research and instruction on society, technology and health – the strategic strengths of the new university – are brought together in Global Health and Development.

Global well-being will simultaneously become the overarching theme. According to Perkiö, this means that the focus will be on the global preconditions for enjoying a good life on both the individual and community levels.

The first course, jointly planned with Tampere University of Technology, will deal with the relationships between the environment, technology and health. Besides climate change, necessities such as electricity production and water and waste management will be addressed. Questions on living, energy, traffic and technological solutions for promoting health and well-being will also be highlighted.

“With the help of the courses on health, students from different fields will become more conscious of the impact of the various sectors on people’s well-being. The aim is to get the students to think above and beyond their academic disciplines to enable them to work fluently across different fields. We are trying to break down the barriers that separate disciplines,” Perkiö explains.

The international Master’s Degree Programme will start in 2017

The application period for the international Master’s Degree Programme in Public and Global Health will end on 13 January 2017, and the programme will commence this September.

“Public health and global health need each other; one cannot exist without the other. We also need a wider perspective on global well-being,” Milén says.

The degree programme includes studies on the health and social sciences and engineering but, for example, the impact of the environment on health and gender as a variable defining well-being is also addressed. The programme also aims to ensure relevant internships for students to strengthen their expertise.

“The aim is to educate experts who will understand the big picture of the interdependencies between health and societal questions. The students will benefit from this expertise when they work in their own countries or for international organisations, for example,” Perkiö says.

Milén says that the Master’s Degree Programme is seeking applicants from countries in both the global north and south.

“Only if we have students from different parts of the world can we have a global perspective and ensure a high standard in the studies we offer,” Milén explains.

Nordic universities to cooperate

In the autumn of 2016, Milén and Perkiö organised a meeting of Nordic universities, where the participants planned to exchange courses related to global health and well-being.

“For example, the University of Copenhagen has expertise on the education on refugees and environmental health, but health economics is not as strong there as it is at our University,” Milén says.

The Nordic educational cooperation may eventually lead to research cooperation.

The Global Health and Development programme is funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. The University of Tampere is committed to continuing the programme after funding from the Foundation ends in 2018.

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Text: Pirjo Achté
Photograph: Jonne Renvall