Tag Archives: Karolinska

What is global health?

As you all know I study the Global Health Master’s programme at Karolinska Institutet. Like most of the people I tell this to, I’m sure you’re thinking…

‘So, what the hell is that?’

The programme itself is fairly new, being only a few years old and has undergone many changes and adjustments since the launch. I think Hans Rosling originally had a role in the development of the programme and fortunately we’re still privileged enough to have him as a lecturer during the first course. Both Andaç and I have talked about him before in previous blogs if you’ve never heard of him – but he’s one of the biggest names in the global health field.


Basically, global health is the study of the health of populations in a global context. The common definition used states it is “the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide”

(Koplan JP, Bond TC, Merson MH; et al. (June 2009).“Towards a common definition of global health”. Lancet 373 (9679): 1993–5. 

Still none the wiser? Think of public health which deals with healthcare systems, healthcare workers and health policy on a national or continental level, BUT this is on a global scale.

We look at health determinants (what factors affect a person’s health) and health indicators (how to measure health). A lot of the course involves comparing these determinants and indicators between different countries, particularly low and middle income countries (based on GDP). We also look at the different interventions and policies put in place and how these may improve health in that country.

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Who studies global health?

One of the main attractions to the programme is its diversity of people. We have doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, dentists, neuroscientists, psychologists, veterinarians, entrepreneurs, engineers and lawyers from all around the world coming to study the course. Everyone brings something to contribute to the class discussions.

Unfortunately, last year no scholarships were available from the Swedish Institute so we have very few students in our class from outside the EU. Personally I feel this has been detrimental to the programme and particularly lacked valuable input from African and Asian students who have lived and worked in these countries.

GOOD NEWS: Scholarships from the Swedish Institute are available again this year. Scholarships are available from Karolinska Institute every year.

I really hope that in the future the Swedish Institute listens and considers how removal of scholarships can affect the quality of a programme reliant on the opinions and experience of students from an international background outside the EU.

What courses do I study?


The programme is only 1 year long so it is fairly intense compared to a 2 year degree. This also means we don’t get a Swedish personal number (see Hong’s post for a summary of the difficulties of life in Sweden without the magic number).

Introduction to Global Health (5 weeks)

  • An introduction to global health…obvious
  • From disasters to diabetes

Research Methodology (5 weeks)

  • A heavy statistics and research methods course to prepare us for our thesis
  • Quantitative research
  • Qualitative research

Health Policy, Systems, Management and Economics (3 weeks)

  • A look at the how health policy is developed
  • How to analyse health economics
  • What are the differences between healthcare systems, public, private and others

Infectious Disease (3 weeks)

  • Malaria
  • Parasitic disease

Maternal and Child Health (2 weeks)

  • Maternal mortality during pregnancy
  • Child mortality under 5 years
  • Abortion, contraception etc

Non-Communicable Disease (2 weeks)

  • Everything else!
  • Diabetes, heart disease, nutrition, cancer
  • Road traffic accidents, mental health, conflict and disasters

Degree Project (THESIS 18 weeks-ish)

  • Produce novel quantitative or qualitative research relevant to global health
  • Travel to a low or middle income country to perform this research
  • Or stay in Sweden like me – I am studying smoking cigarettes, Swedish snus (a type of tobacco you put in your mouth) and the risk of developing oral cancer

What career shall I look at after the course?


Some people end up working clinically in low income settings, others return to their home countries. Students can end up as public health or global health researchers. PhD’s are common. A lot of people work for charities, NGOs and international organisations such as the WHO or UN. The possibilities are pretty endless!

I hope this blog post, which has turned out relatively long has answered ‘what the hell is global health!?’ Feel free to email me or refer to the KI website for more information, and good luck in the upcoming application deadline.

Feature Image: University of Maryland http://sph.umd.edu/degrees/certificate-global-health

Global Health Night 2015.

Held in the impressive Aula Medica building at Karolinska Institutet, the inaugural Global Health Night was a huge success. A group of KI medical students founded the idea back in the Spring with the aim to educate people regarding hot topics within the global health field. Development and global health have been neglected within medical curriculums for years, so it was great to see many students so keen to learn about the topic. Karolinska actually now offer a Global Health course as part of the medical degree and the Master’s in Global Health, which I am studying.


The night was flawlessly organised by a group of organisations including The Swedish Organisation for Global Health (SOGH) and the Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC). Proceedings started with a talk from Helena Nordenstedt describing her transitional career as a doctor, researcher and now active clinical member of Médecins Sans Frontières. For me, this was most inspiring due to my medical background and similar career aspirations for the future. Each keynote speaker was followed by an interactive Q&A session allowing some debate and interaction with the audience.

Next up it was Johan Lundin showing off his innovative MoMic and the WebMicroscope. Amazing technology enabling rapid diagnostic microscopy particularly useful in the detection of malaria in resource scarce areas. Another inspiring talk came from Kristina Ljungros describing her work with RFSU towards gender equity and sexual-reproductive rights.

Then it was time for the star of the night – Hans Rosling. Although I’ve watched all his TED talks on YouTube and seen him lecture live before, he never fails to entertain and enlighten me. His theme tonight described how globally we have now moved out of the ‘dark ages’ from a world where only the rich have access to electricity and a few girls go to school, to a world where 8 out of 10 have electricity and 9 out of 10 girls complete primary education. Obviously there is still much more to be done as we enter the new 2015 SDG period, but his point was to demonstrate how poorly and negatively we understand the world we live in today.


The evening was rounded off with food and a mingle amongst international organisations, charities and NGOs. Focus groups were also held to gain more specialist insight and discussion towards an area of interest. I attended the Innovation for Global Health focus group which showcased the genius PeePoo from PeePoople! As a sanitation solution in low-income countries, disaster relief and refugee camps, it allows people to safely use a toilet, eliminate disease and also generate fertilizer for use or sale in 4 weeks time.

GHN15 was a fun and informative event with great opportunities to network – I really hope it’s the start of an annual meeting and has inspired others to study or make the career change towards global health.


Welcome to Stockholm.

I guess my curiosity towards Scandinavia started as a child after my Mum described driving a VW Beetle around Norwegian fjords during her early 20s. During this trip she got hold of a Norsk yahtzee set which often made appearances on family holidays; weirdly I thought it’d be super cool to write my name Alex with the letter Å instead. Since then the Nordic countries, culture and people have always intrigued me, but it wasn’t until 2013 when I visited Reykjavík, Iceland that I really felt a connection with the region in general. Whether it’s the nature, landscapes, political model, fashion, foods or innovation that I love, I’m not sure but I just feel at home here. Studying in Sweden was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Anyway, enough of the sentiment.

I’m Alex from England, the United Kingdom studying the Global Health Master’s Programme at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. For some reason, I’ve been trusted to be a Digital Ambassador (AKA blogger), so here you can follow my Swedish adventure in text, photos, Instagram #alexsthlm and the occasional YouTube video.

I thought I’d start by quickly rounding up the highlights from my first week in Stockholm.

Learning Swedish

At Karolinska all international students were offered a free 3 day intensive Swedish course during introductory week. It was a brilliant way to get a head start in learning the language and meeting loads of people also new to Stockholm.

Although literally everyone speaks fluent English, it is nice to learn some useful phrases in Swedish – and personally I’d really like to get to a grasp on Swedish throughout my stay.

Popaganda 2015

This festival in Södermalm is the closing of the summer music scene here in Stockholm. Taking place in Eriksdalsbadet, around a giant outdoor swimming pool, the setting was amazing. Seeing Robyn, MØ, Jungle and James Blake live at the end of the Swedish summer felt like the perfect intro into the academic year.


Starting University

Recovering from the festival was a challenge but fortunately the work-life balance in Sweden aided my level of tiredness. I’ve found this to be a general theme so far (compared to my previous studies) that most courses will cover the required content during lecture time and that the reading outside of school is minimal. From what I hear this applies to the work place as well – with a ‘late night at the office’ translating to leaving at 6pm…

Water in Stockholm

Stockholm Fashion Night

As part of the annual Stockholm Fashion Week at the end of August, a free evening in Östermalm was held to promote Swedish brands and designers. Starting at Sturegallerian, the high-end mall in town, we watched a catwalk show parading the latest trends in Scandinavian design. Complimentary food, goody bags, late night shopping, street DJs, and importantly free beers rounded off a brilliant first week.

Fashion Night