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School of Public Health Debuts Essentials of Global Health on Coursera

October 28, 2016

The Yale School of Public Health’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will be released by Coursera on October 31. The course, Essentials of Global Health, is an outgrowth of the undergraduate and graduate classes taught by former lecturer and global health specialist Richard Skolnik.

Based on the global health courses Skolnik has taught since 2001 at both Yale and The George Washington University, Essentials of Global Health with its 31 sessions, is the first comprehensive online global health course offered on Coursera’s platform. The video sessions for the course were filmed at Yale in a small classroom format. The course utilizes the most current research data and video from some of the world’s foremost experts in global health complements three of the sessions.

Essentials of Global Health will have an international audience, including many people who do not speak English as a first language. It is anticipated that many learners will be individuals who want to get or deepen their knowledge of global health. However, the course is also intended to be helpful to the staff of organizations that work in global health. In addition, the course has been designed so that faculty who teach global health around the world can use the course as an adjunct to their teaching and educational materials. “We are hoping that individuals throughout the world will find the course to be an engaging and comprehensive introduction to this important topic that adds substantial value to the courses already available online,” says Skolnik. “At the same time, we hope that those working in and teaching global health will see the course as a well-presented source of up-to-date information and ideas about global health that can also be of real value to them, as well.”

Skolnik, a lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Management until his retirement in May, has been involved in international development and global health since the early 1970s. He worked for 25 years at the World Bank, spending the last five years as the Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population in the South Asia region. At the World Bank, Richard focused on health systems development, family planning and reproductive health, child health, the control of communicable diseases and nutrition in low-income countries. He was extensively engaged with early efforts in HIV in India, as well as with TB, leprosy and cataract blindness control projects there. Skolnik also helped to develop and managed an array of important economic and sector studies at the World Bank, largely focused on health systems development, health systems financing, women's health and nutrition.

After leaving the World Bank in 2001, Richard helped The George Washington University (GWU) develop a global health program. He also served two years as the Executive Director of the Harvard PEPFAR program for AIDS treatment for three countries in Africa and as the Vice- President for International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). While teaching at GWU and Yale, Skolnik worked with a number of organizations, such as Results for Development and the World Health Organization, on program evaluations and the financing of disease control efforts. Skolnik’s passion for enhancing the health of people in low- and middle-income countries and creating and educational opportunities in a range of settings has taken him to all corners of the world. Skolnik graduated from Yale College in 1972. His widely used textbook, Global Health 101, is now in its third edition.

Skolnik’s efforts to create the online course were supported by Yale’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the Yale Broadcast Studio. In addition, Lindsey Hiebert, MPH ’16, research assistant for Skolnik’s latest textbook, helped coordinate the production of course materialsand graphic artists to bring all of the data to life. Six former students, including Shaylen Foley, MPH ’16, and Emily Briskin, MPH ’16, performed in the mock classroom. “I am extremely grateful,” says Skolnik, for the wonderful and gracious support of those who worked on the course from across the university and the exceptional support of Dean Paul Cleary and Professor Elizabeth Bradley, who helped bring everyone on board with this project.”

The course focuses on five key questions: 1) What do people get sick, disabled and die from?;

2) Why do they suffer from these conditions?; 3)Which people are most affected?; 4) Why should we care about such concerns?; and 5) What can be done to address key health issues, hopefully at least cost, as fast as possible and in sustainable ways?

While global in scope, the course focuses on low- and middle-income countries, the health of the poor and health disparities. Particular attention is paid throughout to health systems issues, the linkages between health and development and health matters related to global interdependence.

The syllabus includes some of the most important and up-to-date readings on both infectious and chronic diseases, women’s and children’s health, immunization, neglected tropical diseases, health systems and more. These are linked to discussion prompts for each of the 31 sessions.

For the School of Public Health, entry into the MOOC marketplace not only brings attention to the school’s tremendous faculty and expertise, said Dean Paul Cleary. “It also can be used to enhance the learning experience for on-campus students and extend Yale’s global impact.”

Yale University currently has 17 courses on the Coursera platform; this is the first from the School of Public Health. Coursera allows anyone to audit the course for free (excludes assessments) or for a fee ($49) for those interested in earning a course certificate. The 10-week course will require an estimated seven hours of work weekly.

Founded in 2012, Coursera partners with 140 top universities and organizations to provide more than 1500 online courses worldwide. Former Yale University president, Richard Levin, is Chief Executive Officer.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on October 28, 2016