GHS 202B - Non-Communicable Diseases of Global Importance

This course will cover the key chronic disease conditions that include many growing causes of mortality and disability in the global population. The course will review the burden of illness attributable to cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, diabetes, cancer as well as other major non-communicable contributors to disability adjusted life years. Students will also learn about the consequences of injury and mental health disorders on public health. There will be discussion of environmental and occupational health problems caused by toxic exposures, air pollution, and the health impacts of the built environment, projected effects of global warming, and the challenge of population growth.

The course will explore the determinants of non-communicable diseases, including key risk factors such as diet, obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise. Students will discuss policy and public health interventions to control chronic disease such as the role of international organizations/treaties, food policy, mass media, and medical screening/treatment. Students will gain an understanding of the role of public health agencies and the challenges posed to the medical care systems. Using case studies and examples of interventions, students will also learn how countries with different levels of resource availability cope with chronic illness and disease prevention.


At the conclusion of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Characterize the global scope, burden and trends of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  • Describe the demographic and epidemiological transitions in the context of a global rise in non-communicable diseases
  • Demonstrate integration of knowledge of non-communicable diseases into the larger framework of global burden of disease.
  • Define the major environmental factors that contribute to non-communicable diseases and examine proposals to mitigate environmental degradation as they relate to global health
  • Describe the role of governments, international organizations, NGOs, and communities in addressing attributable burden of disease
  • Analyze challenges in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases from a public health perspective.
  • Demonstrate ability to examine non-communicable disease control from a political, economic and scientific vantage
  • Cite examples of environmental causes of chronic disease and their mitigation
  • Describe the burden of mental illness on a global scale
  • Describe the global burden of cancer and name some common malignancies linked to infectious causes
  • Describe the tobacco framework and list successful initiatives in tobacco control
  • Enumerate how injuries and trauma can be mitigated in resource poor countries
  • Demonstrate knowledge of environmental, life style and genetic risk factors for common chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and pulmonary disease.
  • Explain the "epidemiological transition" and describe ways to measure the effect of urbanization and modernization on health
  • Describe the growing obesity epidemic and explain its effect on health
  • Discuss the major causes of injury-related morbidity/mortality and some of the prevention strategies
  • Explain how maternal and child health is measured and cite measures to improve maternal-child health outcomes
  • Explain how nutritional interventions can reduce child mortality in resource poor countries
  • Describe the roles of food, water, and energy use in chronic disease

Course Content

  • The changing epidemiology of chronic disease in global health
  • Cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarction, hypertension, and stroke
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease and it's determinants
  • The role of tobacco use in chronic disease
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution as causal factors in disease
  • The role of diet, including environmental factors and public policy, in the obesity epidemic and the development of diabetes
  • The role of the built environment in chronic disease
  • Injury prevention and approaches to improving pre- hospital care
  • Occupational disease as a major global cause of disability
  • The special vulnerabilities of children to malnutrition and environmental disease
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol, as a contributor to NCD's
  • The growing importance of mental health disorders

Course Director

James Seward, MD, MPP, MMM

Teaching format

Lectures, seminars, independent study, assigned projects.

Course credit

3 units