Global Health PhD

Global health problems are numerous and complex – including environmental pollutants, HIV, reproductive cancers, childhood diarrhea, malaria, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, under-nutrition, obesity and diabetes. All require a sophisticated understanding of the social roots of these diseases in order to form lasting, wide-scale solutions.

Large-scale globalization and urbanization has created an urgent need for researchers and practitioners with a strong background in both the cultural and social aspects of health, skills that this one of a kind program is uniquely qualified to produce via:

1. The ability to combine health knowledge and the latest social science research about how people live and interact with one another.
2. A focus on identifying the best ways to use social, cultural, ecological, biological and historical insights rather than on the promotion of singular approaches or modes of enquiry.
3. Competency and mastery in all key health-relevant social science methodologies, such as epidemiology, GIS, ethnography, statistics and survey techniques.

Graduates with this cutting-edge degree will be in high demand in academic settings, commercial enterprises, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies. Current job titles of alumni include public health advisor, research associate, and postdoctoral fellow.

If you want to develop a professional social science skill set and are driven, open-minded and willing to work as part of a collaborative team, this is the right place for you.

11 core faculty
9 laboratories
3 global internships

Degree Overview

The 84-credit program requires an internship or practicum in addition to the comprehensive exams, prospectus and dissertation.

We are very interested in graduate students who wish to work in two or more of these areas, in which we provide particularly strong graduate-level training:

Global Health Specializations:

  • Links between Culture, Society and Health
  • Social Justice
  • Health in the Americas
  • Community-Based Research
  • Indigenous and Minority Health
  • Nutritional Health and Nutritional Anthropology
  • Sustainability and Environmental Health
  • Urban Health
  • Biocultural and Life History Approaches to Health
  • Social Complexity and Social Networks
  • Health in the Past
  • Medical Epidemiology


  • Culturally and Socially Oriented Health Research, including Ethnography, Survey, Spatial Analysis, Participatory Action Research, Demography, Epidemiology, Social Networks, Computer-Based Modeling

Regional Strengths:

  • Central America, South America, Southwest US


Students in this program may include the following optional concentration in their coursework and should consult the graduate advisor for more information.

Complex Adaptive Systems Science

This concentration trains the next generation of scientists in advanced concepts and methods needed for approaching diverse phenomena in the social and life sciences. The program is tightly integrated with diverse, ongoing, university-wide research on complex adaptive systems science and emphasizes the value of this perspective to give better insight and a more active role in seeking solutions to a broad array of critical issues facing our society today. Students will be fluent in the common language of complexity while also receiving a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines. Students will select 15 credit hours from an approved list of applicable courses.

How to apply


Prospective students must submit an application for graduate admission, the application fee and the following required materials:

  • official transcripts
  • personal statement outlining educational and professional goals
  • current curriculum vitae or resume
  • three letters of recommendation
  • proof of English proficiency

Applicants may also submit an optional scholarly writing sample not to exceed 20-30 double-spaced pages. More information on submitting your materials is available from the Graduate College.

To be considered, prospective students must have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of a student's first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Suitable backgrounds for admission include a master's degree in the social sciences (such as anthropology or sociology), public health, human biology or related fields. Students entering directly from a bachelor's degree program should already have completed at least 15 hours of social science and six hours of human biology (or equivalent) at the senior level, and should also have some background in statistics or epidemiology. However, a master's degree is preferred and recommended.

Our program has more than 75 affiliated faculty members across Arizona State University.


The PhD in global health requires a total of 84 credit hours. A previously awarded master’s degree in a related area can be used to satisfy 30 hours of this requirement. An additional 30 hours of coursework are required.

Students are free to develop their dissertations on a wide range of health-related topics in any world region. A normal curriculum would involve training in social science health theories; both quantitative and qualitative methods; practicum-based training in assessment, intervention and/or health education; and epidemiology, research design and ethics/social justice, along with the student’s chosen areas of interest.


Core courses


Community-based internship or practicum


Approved elective courses






     Total credits


Courses and electives

Our global health graduate students have diverse academic backgrounds and varied career goals, so we offer flexibility when planning the most appropriate path for you. Curricular tracks will tend to be individualized, and final determination of the most appropriate course of study or how each requirement should most appropriately be met will be determined by your advisory committee in consideration of your research and career goals. Each plan will ensure that you graduate with a strong basis in social science theory and appropriate health research methods, as well as considerable experience in community-level research and its application.

All students will take the following courses:

ASB 510 Health: Social and Biocultural Theories (3 credits)
ASB 500 Ethnographic Research Methods (3 credits) (or equivalent)
ASM 579 Proposal Writing (3 credits) (or equivalent)
ASB 591 Poverty, Social Justice and Global Health (3 credits) (or equivalent)
One course in advanced epidemiology (3 credits)
Two advanced statistics courses (6 credits)
Two additional methods courses relevant to global health (6 credits)

The form and duration will be determined by the student's committee as appropriate to the student's proposed dissertation and/or career plans (3 credits).

ASB 580 Practicum (1-3 credits)
ASB 512 Social Science Applications in Community Health (1-3 credits)
ASB 583 Fieldwork (1-3 credits)

Students will choose the courses that best fit their needs in consultation with their committee (30 credits).

Research Skills Portfolio
The student writes two publishable research papers that demonstrate the ability to develop research questions, and to gather, analyze and interpret data systematically to address those questions. Such papers are normally written in the context of program courses, but papers written in other contexts are also encouraged. Students present one of the research papers in a school-wide research symposium, held in the latter part of each spring semester.

Doctoral Examinations
Prior to advancing to candidacy, the student completes a written doctoral examination and prepares and orally defends a dissertation proposal (oral examination). All global health students must write two or three field statements, constituting the written comprehensive examination. The content of the student's field statements is determined in consultation with their advisor and/or supervisory committee, and serves as preparation for the future dissertation project.

Foreign Language
In most cases, demonstration of language competency is expected; the form and level of competency required will be determined by the student's supervisory committee as appropriate to the proposed dissertation project and career plans of the candidate.

Students write a dissertation, which must be approved by their supervisory committee. The format of the dissertation must be in accordance with ASU Graduate College guidelines. While the ASU Graduate College will accept either three published papers or a dissertation format, for Global Health students a research dissertation is almost always recommended. The culmination is the public presentation and oral defense of the dissertation.

ASB 792 Research (12 credits)
ASB 799 Dissertation (12 credits)