Distance Learning Courses and Programs in International Health

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Several institutions offer international health programs and courses online, many of which are traditional four-year universities. These programs are often offered by schools of public health, since their focus is on health issues that impact populations of people in other countries. Majors that include studies in international health include public health and global health.

Although there are some free, non-credit online courses available in this field, most for-credit options are offered at the graduate level and result in either a master's degree or a graduate certificate. This means that prospective students must have bachelor's degrees and, in some cases, relevant work experience. These programs are generally offered in hybrid format, requiring students to complete campus residencies and/or an internship or practicum.


OpenCourseWare is a cooperative program with quite a few top universities participating. Course materials are posted online and may be accessed at no cost. No instructor is available and there are no grades assigned. But for those who wish to learn about international health and don't need college credit, the lecture notes, assigned readings and other materials may be a great help. Available free online courses cover:

  • Health in refugee populations
  • Global health
  • Population science
  • International nutrition issues
  • Technology for global health practice
  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Medical anthropology

Graduate Certificate in Global Health

Students looking for online graduate-level options in international health may be interested in a graduate certificate in global health, which typically contains three to five distance learning courses and takes about a year to complete. These programs cover current issues and opportunities in the following areas:

  • International public health and health systems
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Ethics
  • Epidemiology
  • Health program monitoring and evaluation
  • Cultural diversity awareness

For more intensive training, students may opt for a hybrid certificate program that combines online coursework and on-campus residencies or classes. Some of these programs may also include opportunities to study global health up close through study abroad experiences. A capstone project could be required as a culminating program component.

Master of Public Health Degree

Master of Public Health distance learning programs usually require at least one on-campus residency for orientation, research presentation or other purposes. Internships or practicums are also commonly part of the degree requirements in these two-year programs. International health specializations might be as broad as 'global public health' or tightly focused on specific concerns like environmental sustainability or humanitarian aid policies during crisis situations. Core courses offered online include the following:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemiology
  • Public health policy
  • Public health management
  • Social and biological sciences

Learning Environment

Students enrolled in online courses typically communicate with peers and instructors in a virtual classroom environment managed by schools. These sites contain assignments, videos, lectures and other materials to aid in the learning process. Web conferencing, chat rooms and discussion boards may also be utilized for class interaction. The following list provides details on what to expect from distance learning options related to international health.

Distance learning opportunities in international health differ considerably in terms of the extent of training they provide and the time commitment they demand. While free standalone courses are designed for personal enrichment, graduate certificate programs offer more formal classes, and master's degree programs combine advanced coursework with practical instruction in the real world.

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