Skip Navigation

International Health at 50
Shehzad Noorani and others

International Health at 50

In 1961, the School’s Division of International Health debuted as the world’s first academic program to address public health at the international level. The occasion marks the birth of international health as a distinct discipline of public health.

Founded by Professor Timothy Baker and then Dean Ernest Stebbins, the division became a department in 1967 with public health visionary Carl Taylor as its chair. “Trying to define a new field, I guess, is what we really were trying to do,” Taylor recalled in an interview for the Bloomberg School’s oral history project.

Taylor, who died in 2010, rejected the idea of merely importing the best Western medicine to impoverished countries. He wanted to train leaders to view international health as a complex mix of health problems, politics, economics, culture and environment. His vision expanded international health beyond its roots in tropical medicine, a disease-specific field typically spread among different departments, says Robert Black, MD, MPH, Department chair since 1985 and one of the world’s leading experts on child health.

“The challenges are still there, and the solutions are getting better every day.” —Robert Black

“I think what was important about the start of the Department was looking much more broadly not just at particular diseases that occur in different places but at health systems and how services could be delivered in very resource-constrained environments—how social conventions interacted with environmental risk and medical problems, how infectious disease was related to nutrition,” Black says. “It was really looking at the health problems in low-income countries in a much more holistic way.”

The following pages highlight the Department’s contributions in its first half century.


  • Martin

    France 10/19/2011 04:18:03 PM

    It is surprising that the field of International Health makes virtually no mention of water, sanitation and hygiene. Is the ultimate message of IH simply that prevention is a waste of time and curative approaches are the only viable ones? I doubt that Carl Taylor would have endorsed that. In fact, the notion that "It's the people themselves who have to take ownership of their own health care" is probably very closely linked to the concept of "community led total sanitation". International Health needs to understand Environmental Health.

* = required field

Read about our policy on comments to magazine articles.

design element
Online Extras

Origins of International Health

Origins of International Health

He was there: Carl Taylor recalls the reasons behind the birth of what is now global health.

Watch Now

Make a Gift

Talk to Us

Amazed? Enthralled? Disappointed? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts on articles and your ideas for new stories:

Download the PDF

Get a copy of all Feature articles in PDF format. Read stories offline, optimized for printing.

Download Now (3.1MB)