The undergraduate certificate in global health is a 15-credit program open to all undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

All students, especially those who identify as pre-health, are familiar with the concept of health care, the idea of preventing and treating mental and physical health conditions in individuals. The certificate's coursework discusses medicine and particularly the need to improve access to care for all, but it also introduces students to the field of public health, a model for promoting health and well-being that seeks to identify and address the root causes of health problems for populations rather than for individuals.

Public health practitioners focus on preventive, population-level approaches to health promotion. For example, public health work related to substance abuse among UW–Madison students involves education and outreach to high-risk groups as well as facilitating access to treatment. Other public health researchers, government officials, nonprofit staff, and community leaders might work with entire rural communities in a developing country to improve access to clean water, or work on a global scale to try to reduce migration driven by climate change-related declines in food production. 

Solutions to public health problems require expertise from many disciplines and the certificate welcomes both pre-health science students and diverse other students who are passionate about improving the well-being of humans, non-human animals, and the environment through changes in politics, economics, culture, and society in general. 

Certificate students must complete credit-bearing field work but may or may not actually go abroad to do it—the "global" in "global health" refers both to our desire to achieve equity in health for all people worldwide and to the goal of studying and finding solutions to health issues that cross both geographic and socioeconomic boundaries. There are large differences or "disparities" in health and well-being between different populations in Madison and across the United States such that many students choose to study a health problem locally and make connections to the handling of the same problem in other populations and places.

The certificate is administered by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Global Health Institute (GHI) in partnership with faculty and staff across campus.            

Learn more about the program on its website.

Undergraduate students from all majors on campus are encouraged to consider completing the certificate in global health.    

Students may declare after completing any one of the program's three core courses. While the admission to the certificate is not competitive, students should be aware that enrollment in the core courses occurs on a first-come, first-served basis. Information about declaring the certificate can be found on the program website.

There is no guarantee that all interested students will be able to complete the certificate, but completion is most likely for students who take the program’s core courses as early as possible.

Enrollment in Certificate Courses

While interested students would ideally take at least one of the certificate's core courses as freshmen or sophomores, many students do not get into these courses until their junior or senior years. This can make planning difficult—ideal and actual scheduling options are presented below. In theory, students can complete the program's requirements in any order, but there are two important things to keep in mind:

  • Many field experience options have a core course as a prerequisite.
  • Whenever students are finished with the requirements of the degree/major(s), they may not extend  time on campus just to complete the certificate.

The ideal timing for the program's requirements is as follows:

  • NUTR SCI/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM  203 Introduction to Global Health —take fall of the freshman or sophomore year
  • POP HLTH 370 Introduction to Public Health: Local to Global Perspectives and/or  MED HIST/​ENVIR ST  213 Global Environmental Health: An Interdisciplinary Introduction —take any spring from sophomore to senior year
  • two or three elective courseschoose and complete these any time after taking one of the three core courses
  • 1–3 credits of field experiencesummer between junior and senior years or six months on either side of that summer

A more common timing for the program's requirements is as follows:

  • NUTR SCI/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM  203 Introduction to Global Health —take fall of the junior or senior year or (when offered in a special section for juniors and seniors only) spring of one of those years
  • POP HLTH 370 Introduction to Public Health: Local to Global Perspectives and/or MED HIST/​ENVIR ST  213 Global Environmental Health: An Interdisciplinary Introduction —take spring of the junior or senior year
  • two or three elective coursescomplete at least one or two of these before getting into core courses, potentially choosing courses that meet your major and/or general education requirements.
  • 1–3 credits of field experiencesummer between junior and senior years or six months on either side of that summer
Core Courses
NUTR SCI/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM  203 Introduction to Global Health3
MED HIST/​ENVIR ST  213 Global Environmental Health: An Interdisciplinary Introduction 13
or POP HLTH 370 Introduction to Public Health: Local to Global Perspectives
Field Experience
Field experiences range in length from one week to one year and typically carry from one to four credits. The field experience can be completed in the US or abroad but must be completed for credit and must be approved by certificate staff. Some experiences are "preapproved" while others such as internships must be submitted for approval. Volunteering that includes clinical work is strongly discouraged and is not accepted as field experience. See the program's field experience web page and handbook for more details.1-4
Select from electives list (see below) to reach a minimum of 15 credits total for the certificate. 26-8

Completing both of these courses is encouraged, and students who do so can count one as an elective.


The certificate does not support tracks or specialties but students may choose to concentrate their electives in one or more functional areas (topics of study covered in graduate programs in public health and related fields). Note that many courses span multiple functional areas but are only listed once.

Some courses listed here are "special topics" courses. These are courses whose topic changes from semester to semester and even between sections in the same semester. Sections of these courses accepted by the certificate are shown in parentheses (like this). Use of approved sections to meet the certificate's electives requirement is fine but requires manual modification of a student's degree audit, typically during the student's last term on campus.

Global Health electives grouped by functional AREA1

Agronomy/Horticulture/Plant Breeding
AGRONOMY 377 Cropping Systems of the Tropics3
BOTANY/​PL PATH  123 Plants, Parasites, and People3
BOTANY 240 Plants and Humans3
BOTANY/​AMER IND/​ANTHRO  474 Ethnobotany3-4
HORT 350 Plants and Human Wellbeing2
HORT 370 World Vegetable Crops3
Animal Science/Dairy Science
AN SCI/​DY SCI  370 Livestock Production and Health in Agricultural Development3
DY SCI/​AN SCI/​FOOD SCI/​SOIL SCI  472 Animal Agriculture and Global Sustainable Development1
Community Health
C&E SOC/​SOC  532 Health Care Issues for Individuals, Families and Society3
C&E SOC/​SOC  533 Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities3
Environmental Health/Environmental Science/Environmental Economics
A A E/​ENVIR ST  244 The Environment and the Global Economy3
A A E/​ECON/​ENVIR ST  343 Environmental Economics3-4
BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  260 Introductory Ecology3
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  460 General Ecology4
CIV ENGR 422 Elements of Public Health Engineering3
CIV ENGR 423 Air Pollution Effects, Measurement and Control3
ENVIR ST/​POP HLTH  471 Introduction to Environmental Health3
ENVIR ST/​POP HLTH  502 Air Pollution and Human Health3
ENVIR ST/​HIST SCI/​MED HIST  513 Environment and Health in Global Perspective3
SOIL SCI/​ATM OCN  132 Earth's Water: Natural Science and Human Use3
ENTOM/​ZOOLOGY  371 Medical Entomology3
Exercise Science
KINES 353 Health and Physical Education in a Multicultural Society2
KINES 355 Socio-Cultural Aspects of Physical Activity3
Health Economics/Health Finance
ECON/​POP HLTH/​PUB AFFR  548 The Economics of Health Care3-4
Health Education/Behavioral Sciences
ED POL 150 Education and Public Policy (Sexuality and Education; Education and Global Change) 23
ED POL/​CURRIC  677 Education, Health and Sexuality: Global Perspective and Policies3
Health Policy
POLI SCI/​INTL ST  434 The Politics of Human Rights3-4
POLI SCI 507 Health Policy and Health Politics3-4
SOC WORK 206 Introduction to Social Policy4
Health Promotion and Communications
COM ARTS/​JOURN/​LSC  617 Health Communication in the Information Age3
LSC 515 Public Information Campaigns and Programs3
Infectious Diseases
M M & I 301 Pathogenic Bacteriology2
M M & I 554 Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism2
M M & I 555 Vaccines: Practical Issues for a Global Society3
PATH/​PATH-BIO  210 HIV: Sex, Society and Science3
PATH 404 Pathophysiologic Principles of Human Diseases3
POP HLTH/​M M & I  603 Clinical and Public Health Microbiology5
Maternal and Child Health
SOC WORK 646 Child Abuse and Neglect2-3
DS 501 Special Topics (Design Thinking for Health; Global Artisans: Pragmatic Design) 21-3
Minority Health and Health Disparities
AFROAMER/​HIST SCI/​MED HIST  523 Race, American Medicine and Public Health3
AMER IND 450 Issues in American Indian Studies (Dangerous Memories) 23
ASIAN AM 240 Topics in Asian American Studies (Hmong American Experiences in the US) 23
RP & SE 660 Special Topics (Health Promotion for Disabilities and Chronic Illness) 21-6
Multicultural Studies
ANTHRO 104 Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity3
ANTHRO 365 Medical Anthropology3
Nutrition/Public Health Nutrition
A A E/​AGRONOMY/​INTER-AG/​NUTR SCI  350 World Hunger and Malnutrition3
C&E SOC/​SOC  222 Food, Culture, and Society3
NUTR SCI 132 Nutrition Today (Students may count 132 OR 332, but not both)3
NUTR SCI 332 Human Nutritional Needs (Students may count 332 OR 132, but not both)3
NUTR SCI/​BIOCHEM  510 Biochemical Principles of Human and Animal Nutrition3
PL PATH 311 Global Food Security3
M M & I/​ENTOM/​PATH-BIO/​ZOOLOGY  350 Parasitology3
Population Sciences
POP HLTH/​C&E SOC/​SOC  380 Contemporary Population Problems for Honors3
SOC 170 Population Problems3-4
Poverty and Development
A A E/​INTL ST  373 Globalization, Poverty and Development3
A A E/​ECON  474 Economic Problems of Developing Areas3
A A E/​ECON  477 Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa3
C&E SOC/​F&W ECOL/​SOC  248 Environment, Natural Resources, and Society3
C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST/​SOC  540 Sociology of International Development, Environment, and Sustainability3
C&E SOC/​AMER IND/​SOC  578 Poverty and Place3
C&E SOC/​SOC  630 Sociology of Developing Societies/Third World3
ECON 448 Human Resources and Economic Growth3-4
HDFS/​CNSR SCI  465 Families & Poverty3
INTL ST 101 Introduction to International Studies3-4
INTL ST 402 Topics in Politics and Policy in the Global Economy (Global Poverty and Inequality)3-4
Public Health Ethics
MED HIST/​PHILOS  505 Justice and Health Care3
MED HIST/​PHILOS  515 Public Health Ethics3
MED HIST 559 Topics in Ethics and History of Medicine (Climate Change Ethics) 23
Public Health Leadership
POP HLTH 504 Health Care Quality Improvement in Low Resource Settings1
SOC WORK 659 International Aspects of Social Work (Check with global health advisors to see which sections are acceptable in any given term) 22-3
Public Health Medicine
INTER-AG/​INTER-LS  152 Ways of Knowing: Medicine and Society1
MED HIST/​HIST SCI  212 Bodies, Diseases, and Healers: An Introduction to the History of Medicine3
MED HIST 286 Honors Seminar: Studies in Medical History (History of Global Disease Eradication) 23
NURSING/​S&A PHM/​SOC WORK  105 Health Care Systems: Interdisciplinary Approach2
NURSING 419 Clinical III: Community Health Nursing Practicum (For nursing students, 419 can count for the certificate as either an elective, a field experience, or both, depending on where the credit is needed. )4
NURSING 590 Contemporary Practices in Nursing (Nursing Leadership in Global Health Settings; Obesity Causes, Conseq & Cures) 21-4
PHM SCI 310 Drugs and Their Actions2
PHM PRAC 305 Consumer Self-Care and Over-the-Counter Drugs2
Public Health Practice
MED HIST/​HIST SCI  509 The Development of Public Health in America3
MED HIST/​HIST SCI/​POP HLTH  553 International Health and Global Society3
POP HLTH 650 Special Topics (These are typically graduate-only sections; interested students should contact the instructor of the section into which they would like to enroll for possible permission; past accepted sections include Community Health in Conflict Situations; The Public Health Laboratory; Introduction to Infectious Disease; Healthcare Quality Improvement and Innovation ) 21-6
Social Determinants of Health
HISTORY/​HIST SCI/​MED HIST  504 Society and Health Care in American History3
MED HIST/​HIST SCI/​HISTORY  564 Disease, Medicine and Public Health in the History of Latin America and the Caribbean3
RELIG ST 101 Religion in Global Perspective3
RELIG ST 102 Exploring Religion in Sickness and Health3
S&A PHM 490 Selected Topics in Social and Administrative Pharmacy (Health Equity and Social Justice) 21-4
SOC 531 Sociology of Medicine3
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  632 Ecotoxicology: The Chemical Players1
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  633 Ecotoxicology: Impacts on Individuals1
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  634 Ecotoxicology: Impacts on Populations, Communities and Ecosystems1
Veterinary Public Health
F&W ECOL/​SURG SCI  548 Diseases of Wildlife3
Women's Health
GEN&WS 102 Gender, Women, and Society in Global Perspective3
GEN&WS 103 Women and Their Bodies in Health and Disease3
GEN&WS 424 Women's International Human Rights3
GEN&WS/​PSYCH  522 Psychology of Women and Gender3
GEN&WS/​INTL ST  535 Women's Global Health and Human Rights3

Footnotes related to electives


"Functional areas"/topics for study commonly used in graduate programs in public health and related fields:

  • Aging—Focuses on solutions to aging-related challenges, promoting healthy aging, longevity and disability prevention, and the relationship between health risk factors and aging.
  • Agronomy/Horticulture/Plant Breeding—The management of crops, soils, fertilizers, water, and other agricultural inputs and the assessment of the degree to which different practices meet goals for productivity, efficiency, human and animal nutrition, and environmental impact.
  • Animal Science/Dairy Science—Study of the management of domesticated animals, including assessment of the degree to which different practices meet goals for productivity, efficiency, humane treatment, and environmental impact
  • Biomedical Lab Sciences—Focuses on laboratory techniques in areas such as microbiology, immunology, virology, molecular biology, as applied to research on public health issues.
  • Biostatistics—Study of theories and techniques for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting quantitative data relevant to public health issues.
  • Chronic Disease—Focuses on the etiology and prevention of chronic disease, while addressing interventions such as policy change, education, and various services to reduce chronic disease morbidity and mortality at the level of community and individual behavior.
  • Clinical Research—Use of statistical methods in the design and execution of studies involving a person or group of persons and addressing public health problems.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders—Focuses on the practice of public health as applied to disorders of speech production/perception, hearing, and language organization.
  • Community Health—Focuses on work with defined communities to identify and resolve public health problems and to promote well-being.
  • Dental Public Health—The science of preventing dental diseases and promoting dental health on a community basis, including dental education of the public, applied dental research, and administration of group dental care programs.
  • Environmental Health/Environmental Science/Environmental Economics—Study of assessment, control, prevention, and cost implications of factors in the environment that can adversely affect the health of present and future generations. 
  • Epidemiology—Application of the scientific method to the study of disease in populations for the purpose of prevention and control.
  • Exercise Science—The theory-based, research-led study of the impact of physical exercise on the body and health.
  • Food Safety—Focuses on identification and decreasing the risk to the public from foodborne illness by surveillance, monitoring occurrences of bacterial pathogens, and response to public complaints.
  • Genetics—Explores the impact of genes on public health and disease prevention, including how genes and the environment interact to affect distribution of disease in human populations.
  • Health Administration—Study of the skills, values, and conceptual abilities needed for management roles in health care, health policy, and public health.
  • Health Economics/Health Finance—Study of the composition, use, and impact of finances that fund all components of the public health system. This includes the pricing, production, and distribution of health services.
  • Health Education/Behavioral Sciences—Interdisciplinary study focusing on how health education can affect behavior and lifestyle decisions that have an impact on public health.
  • Health Law—The impact of law on the furnishing and administration of health services, and study of legal structures that define government’s authority in the interest of public health.
  • Health Promotion and Communications—Organized response to promote health and prevent illness, injury, and disability using communication mediums.
  • Health Services Research—Research on the cost, access, and quality of the health care system, and on policy issues affecting the organization, financing, and delivery of health care services.
  • Immunology—The relationship between body systems, pathogens, and immunity, the development and function of immune cells, and the mechanisms of disease and immunology.
  • Infectious Diseases—Study of illnesses resulting from the transmission of microbial agents through diverse pathogens, disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and the prevention of infectious diseases.
  • Informatics—Interdisciplinary science dealing with the structure, acquisition, and use of biomedical information, ranging from theoretical model contraction to building and evaluating applied systems.
  • Injury/Violence—The study of the epidemiology, risk factors, and effective prevention strategies for unintentional and violence-related injury.
  • Management and Health Policy—Study of legislative, administrative, and budget systems affecting health services, competencies associated with health care management, and the role of leadership in public health.
  • Maternal and Child Health—Focuses on the improvement of public health delivery systems for women, children, and their families through advocacy, education, and research.
  • Mental Health—Emphasizes early intervention, prevention of mental illness, and promotion of mental health through public health education.
  • Microenterprise and Microlending—Focuses on the development of small businesses using small amounts of credit, often but not always in developing country settings.  Explores the impact of small businesses on individual, family, and community health and well-being.
  • Minority Health and Health Disparities—Addresses factors causing gaps in quality of health care across social, ethnic, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic groups.
  • Multicultural Studies—Focuses on the impact of social identities in determining behavior during illness and decisions regarding care, and the importance of understanding basic attitudes of a cultural group for successful health promotion and prevention programs.
  • Neuroscience—An interdisciplinary field which may include research in areas such as molecular neuroscience, neurophysiology, and computational modeling, with applications for vaccine development, response to bioterrorism attacks, and control or prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Nutrition/Public Health Nutrition—Focuses on the improvement of the nutritional health of the whole population and vulnerable subgroups within the population, and emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Occupational Health/Industrial Hygiene—Focuses on the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, communication, prevention, and control of environmental stressors in the workplace that may result in injury, illness or impairment, or affect the wellbeing of the community.
  • Parasitology—Study of human parasites and of public health measures that contribute to the prevention and control of diseases caused by parasites.
  • Population and Reproductive Health—Factors influencing human reproductive health and dynamics of population growth with the goal of avoiding disease and disability related to sexuality and reproduction.
  • Population Sciences—Study of the science of demography and health implications of major population issues, including population size, composition, distribution, and change.
  • Poverty and Development—Involves exploration of the relative availability of  resources and services between different populations and geographic areas.
  • Preparedness Response and Recovery—Focuses on the public health infrastructure needed to monitor the environment, assess needs of vulnerable populations, and allocate resources in times of community emergency.
  • Public Health Ethics—Involves a systematic process to clarify, prioritize, and justify possible courses of public health action based on ethical principles, values and beliefs of stakeholders, and scientific and other information. Public ethics is a field of study that seeks to clarify principles guiding actions, and a field of practice that applies relevant principles and values to decision making.
  • Public Health Leadership—Prepares public health practitioners with knowledge and skills needed to mobilize, coordinate, and direct broad collaborative actions within the complex public health system.
  • Public Health Medicine—Protects and improves the health of the community through preventive medicine by providing public health training for clinicians such as doctors, dentists, and nurses.
  • Public Health Policy—The collected laws, regulations, and approaches taken to making decisions and implementing policy to protect the health of communities and populations. Public health policy issues include a wide range of topics including health care reform, insurance reform, prevention of communicable diseases, food safety, and stem cell research.
  • Public Health Practice—Application of knowledge and competencies in performance of essential public health services.
  • Risk Assessment—Determination of the probability that a specific public health environmental or other threat will occur, with a focus on adverse health effects, risk perception, communication, and management.
  • Social Determinants of Health—Study of the political, cultural, and societal systems that influence behaviors and lifestyle decisions that have an impact on health.
  • Substance Use/Harm Reduction—Study of theory and methods for research on substance use and community-based prevention, control, and treatment.
  • Toxicology—Study of the adverse effects of chemicals or other physical agents on human beings and other living organisms.
  • Tropical Medicine—Deals with infectious and other diseases occurring or originating primarily in tropical and subtropical regions.
  • Veterinary Public Health—Study of the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases—transmissible from animals to humans—in both animal and human populations.
  • Women’s Health—Etiology, prevention, and treatment of public health problems affecting women and other high-risk groups.

This course is what UW calls a "special topics" course. These are courses whose topic changes from semester to semester and even between sections in the same semester. Sections of these courses accepted by the certificate in the past are shown in parentheses (like this). Use of approved sections to meet the certificate's electives requirement is fine, but they are not always seen automatically by the certificate's degree audit.  Questions about these courses should be directed to certificate advising staff.

Completing an Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health gives you tools to operate as a global citizen.  Through classroom-based courses and a field experience, you will learn to:

  • discuss the global burden of disease, threats to well-being in varied settings, and the root causes of these conditions;
  • understand how practitioners from a variety of disciplines (health care, education, agriculture, engineering, nutrition, etc.) collaborate with local partners to improve health;
  • reflect on your values, ethics and assumptions, so you can practice respectful and mutual engagement with other cultures, collaborators and organizations;
  • communicate effectively with other public health professionals and with community representatives about measures being taken to address key health concerns in their communities both within and outside the United States; and
  • use your domestic and international health experience to become informed citizens in an increasingly interconnected world.

Details about advising for the certificate are available on the program's advising page

The certificate maintains a handbook with lengthy sections about careers, including suggested global health-related work opportunities to pursue in students' first one to two years after college.

Please see the Certificate in Global Health website for a list of certificate staff and ways to contact them.