Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Global health competencies and approaches in medical education: a literature review

Robert Battat, Gillian Seidman, Nicholas Chadi, Mohammed Y Chanda, Jessica Nehme, Jennifer Hulme, Annie Li, Nazlie Faridi and Timothy F Brewer*

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:94  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-94

Published: 22 December 2010



Physicians today are increasingly faced with healthcare challenges that require an understanding of global health trends and practices, yet little is known about what constitutes appropriate global health training.


A literature review was undertaken to identify competencies and educational approaches for teaching global health in medical schools.


Using a pre-defined search strategy, 32 articles were identified; 11 articles describing 15 global health competencies for undergraduate medical training were found. The most frequently mentioned competencies included an understanding of: the global burden of disease, travel medicine, healthcare disparities between countries, immigrant health, primary care within diverse cultural settings and skills to better interface with different populations, cultures and healthcare systems. However, no consensus on global health competencies for medical students was apparent. Didactics and experiential learning were the most common educational methods used, mentioned in 12 and 13 articles respectively. Of the 11 articles discussing competencies, 8 linked competencies directly to educational approaches.


This review highlights the imperative to document global health educational competencies and approaches used in medical schools and the need to facilitate greater consensus amongst medical educators on appropriate global health training for future physicians.