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International Public Health

What does it mean?

Working mainly in low and middle income countries or with organisations whose main focus is improving health outcomes in low or middle income settings.



What does it involve?

Humanitarian assistance during a natural or human made disaster: public health professionals help to deliver much needed medical, nutrition, water and sanitation services to communities that have lost their families, homes and livelihoods and who require immediate life-saving assistance.


Key websites for more information:

  • Médecins Sans Frontières     
  • Merlin 
  • Oxfam (especially for water, sanitation and nutrition)
  • RedR 
  • Health-EU (public health in the European Union)
  • Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco) (EU)


Health programme design and management: In many low income countries specific, targeted health projects form a main way of supplementing the low level of health services that governments can provide or that families can afford. Health project or programme managers are involved in carrying out needs assessments, planning programmes, fund raising and then managing the delivery of these programmes to ensure that they achieve their expected health outcomes.

Key websites for more information:

  • Save the Children UK 
  • Water Aid 
  • CARE International 
  • Plan International  

Monitoring and evaluation: Public health practitioners bring expert skills in the design of monitoring and evaluation systems, using appropriate public health indicators and methods to measure how well a project, programme or health system performs over time.

Key websites for more information:

  • Global Fund to Fight Against AIDS, TB and Malaria  
  • Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation  
  •  UN Agency websites (see below)

Health policy and systems: Providing advice and support to Ministries of Health of low income countries to strengthen the systems for delivering improved health services. e.g. advice on economic analysis of health interventions; human resources for health; drugs and medical supply management; health sector governance and management structures and overall planning for the whole health sector. 




Key websites for more information:

  • HLSP (Mott MacDonald)  
  • Options  
  • Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health  
  • World Bank 

Health norms and standard setting: Working on a global level to develop guidelines norms and standards for specific technical areas of public health interventions. These are used by countries that do not have resources to develop their own evidence base.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the main public health standard setting organisation on a global level, covering medicine, nutrition, water and sanitation and health systems standards and norms. Other United Nations bodies working on public health related guidelines include UNAIDS for HIV&AIDS, UNFPA for maternal and reproductive health and UNICEF for child health.

Key websites for more information:

  • World Health Organisation  
  • UNAIDS  
  • UNFPA 
  • United Nations Careers

I worked as a refugee camp nutritionist and programme manager for a charity in Africa. I was struck simultaneously with a passion for public health and the importance of health protection and disease prevention for some of the world's poorest people.

- Cindy Carlson, consultant in international health

See Cindy's career story 







See also vacancies on the UK Department for International Development website.

Assistance for people interested in a career in international public health or for organisations interested in setting up a link with a developing country can be found on the NHS Education South Central (NESC) website.

Health is Global: An outcomes framework for global health 2011-2015 
Starting with the previous Government’s publication “Health is Global – a UK Government Strategy 2008-2013” and the recommendations from the first independent review, the new government has developed an outcomes framework to support the next phase of the strategy. It reaffirms a set of guiding principles and focuses efforts on three areas for action: Global health security; International development; Trade for better health. It looks to support the Government’s priorities on foreign policy, international aid commitments, and improving the UK’s population health outcomes to be amongst the best in the world.

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