Swine Flu and Global Health Careers

The World Health Organization raised its international pandemic alert to phase 4 yesterday, the highest rating since the six-point warning system was introduced four years ago.

Yes, swine flu has spread into a half dozen countries and remains a potential pandemic that could lead to great global suffering. Billions in aid are likely to flow as a result of the swine flu, in the same way it did for avian influenza. But the current outbreak also underscores the growing need for global health professionals.

This is the third global health alert in the past few years, from bird flu to SARS to swine flu, all of which came just a few short years after the anthrax scare in the eastern U.S. In addition, the increasing impact and frequency of natural disasters makes strengthening worldwide health infrastructure and response capabilities all the more urgent.

Devex recently wrote about available health fellowships, and Laurie Garrett, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Coming Plague," recently told Devex that more college students are going into global health than ever before. Fortunately, they'll find a fast expanding bank of information online.

If you're just beginning to consider this career path, check out the Devex guide to global health jobs. Two additional sites are required reading: the Global Health Education Consortium's career page and, one of the best sites for information on the variety of subject areas and skills requirements, Explore Health Careers.

Job seekers should browse Devex Jobs. Another interesting site is the Global Health Council's just-launched Career Network, which offers hundreds of jobs as well as job-seekers. Right now, for instance, Management Sciences for Health is looking for a regional business development director for Africa, to be based in Kenya.

Washington's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a global health office that assigns qualified candidates to positions around the world. Its Coordinating Office for Global Health can help you find and apply for the position that suits your background.

In the U.S., the global health sector is centered around the northeast corridor that stretches from the seat of government in the District of Columbia to the seat of learning in Boston. But one city on the rise is Seattle, which is expected to hire nearly 2,500 global health professionals in the next three years, mostly at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

One site that is not nearly as useful as it could be is the online home of the U.S. government's Department of Health and Human Services. This page reminds us that "information is key when striving for a healthier world," but fails to list swine flu among the most urgent global health topics.

Of course, the secretary nominee is fighting a confirmation battle even as public concern about swine flu intensifies. Oh, and her department remains full of empty desks-yet another career opportunity.

About the author

  • David Lepeska

    David has served as U.N. correspondent for the newswire UPI and reported for several major newspapers, including the New York Daily News and Newsday. He was chief correspondent for the Kashmir Observer in Srinagar, India, and regularly contributes to the Economist, among other publications. Since 2007, David has reported for Devex News from Washington, New York, as well as South Asia.