A World of Need, A World of Good

A look at SPH efforts to address some of the major global health challenges of our time.

Air Pollution

37 million

37 million premature deaths worldwide are estimated to occur annually as a result of ambient air pollution.

Source: World Health Organization

Thanks to the widespread use of telemedicine in Haifa and Tel Aviv, SPH Assistant Professor Sara Adar and scientists in Israel are able to identify the specific time people experience heart attacks, arrhythmia, and other acute cardiac events, and to track associations between these events and hourly measurements of airborne particulate matter.

Their novel research—which harnesses the power of big data—can help local regulators develop policies to reduce air pollution and can inform global efforts to improve cardiovascular health, especially in polluted areas.

Respiratory Infections

1.6 million

1.6 million children under five are estimated to die each year from acute lower respiratory infections.

Source: World Health Organization

Worldwide, the leading cause of death in children under five is respiratory infections—among them pneumonia, seasonal influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. In high-income countries like the U.S., children who get these infections typically receive treatment and survive. In low-resource countries, infected kids often die. They also spread the disease to others.

Vaccines remain the best, most cost-effective way to prevent these deadly diseases in both children and adults, says SPH Professor Arnold Monto, who is conducting studies to assess the efficacy of new vaccines for both seasonal influenza and, in the future, RSV.


2.5 billion

2.5 billion people—one-third of the world’s population— are infected by tuberculosis bacteria.

Source: World Health Organization

Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death in the world. But inadequate treatment has given rise to multi- and totally-drug-resistant TB, a dangerous new global threat to health. To fight these superbugs, SPH Assistant Professor Zoe McLaren is using sophisticated statistical analysis techniques to pinpoint areas of greatest need—and sparsest data—in endemic countries like South Africa.

Health officials can then target these areas for aggressive medical and social interventions that will advance the global drive toward eradication.

Food Insecurity

795 million 

795 million people go hungry every day.

Source: World Food Programme

Food insecurity and climate change are serious public health challenges in their own right, but they are also linked to each other. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries, where the well-being of millions of farmers is directly tied to food systems that are increasingly susceptible to temperature extremes and volatile rainfall patterns. SPH Assistant Professor Andrew Jones works in Peru, Burkina Faso, and Malawi to find out if increased agricultural biodiversity can help farmers better manage the risks associated with climate change, thereby combating food insecurity by creating more resilient food-production systems.

Tobacco Use

One billion

One billion people are expected to die of tobacco-related causes in the 21st century.

Source: The World Bank

India, one of the world’s largest tobacco consumers, is a prime target of policy interventions to reduce tobacco use. Policies don’t guarantee compliance, however, especially in settings where tobacco use is embedded in the culture, and implementation resources are minimal. SPH Assistant Professor Ritesh Mistry investigates the efficacy of new policies on adolescent behaviors. He’s found that policies focusing on normative change, such as advertising restrictions—including at the point-of-sale—are equally or even more important than supply-reduction policies. This research is vital to the development of global policies to reduce tobacco consumption and save lives.


60 percent 

60 percent of the world’s total new annual cases of cancer occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Together, these regions account for 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths.

Source: World Health Organization

In the developing world—home to four-fifths of the global population—non-communicable diseases like cancer are fast outpacing traditional enemies such as infectious diseases and malnutrition. But without widespread surveillance systems and registries, developing nations can’t begin to address the rising threat of cancer.

That’s why SPH faculty Mousumi Banerjee and Laura Rozek are partnering with colleagues in India, Bangladesh, and Thailand to create and implement robust infrastructures for cancer surveillance and registration—so that health officials can then develop targeted, life-saving research, prevention, and treatment programs.