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The Year of Global Health: 2020-2021

With the world’s attention turned to the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection of the 2020-2021 ICGL theme, Global Health, is striking in its timeliness. The theme connects to the previous six ICGL annual themes—Water, Food, Climate, Conservation, Energy and Waste—and offers students meaningful opportunities for exploration during a period of heightened relevance in all of our lives.

“Previous annual themes have focused on humans’ impact on the environment,” says ICGL Director TRISH ANDERSON. “In planning for this year’s theme—two years ago!—we decided to flip that approach and focus on the ways the environment impacts us. Seeking a humanities-based study that could incorporate lessons from our previous themes, we arrived at Global Health.”

The Year of Global Health is unfolding in our Lower, Middle and Upper Schools in age-appropriate ways. Students are examining how globalization intersects with health and the impacts—positive and negative—of that intersection on people around the world. “The COVID-19 experience makes it clear that health in one country affects the health of all countries,” Anderson says. “Global cooperation is essential if we are to effectively address the worldwide threats that arise from communicable and non-communicable diseases.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICGL is asking Pace students and faculty to think critically and creatively to consider how we, as a global community, approach Global Health—in our lives, our city and our world. 

Meet Our Isdell Global Leaders

As the Pace community explores the 2020-2021 ICGL theme of Global Health, seniors EVAN ELSTER and MADISON MARTIN, and juniors PRANAVH PRADEEP and JORDAN WHITE are leading the way.

This year’s Isdell Global Leaders (IGLs), selected after an in-depth application process, are in the midst of a year-long study that includes coursework, research and—pending the state of our global health—potential travel opportunities. 

Led by Director of the ICGL Trish Anderson and Associate Director of the ICGL TED WARD, the IGLs are using their findings and experiences to inform their work on campus as they help educate the Pace community regarding the global health issues facing the world today.


  • Since 1990, life expectancy at birth has increased globally by 6 years.

  • Around 6.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year—and almost all could have been saved with access to simple and affordable interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding, inexpensive vaccines and medication, clean water and sanitation.

  • Preterm birth is the leading killer of newborn babies worldwide; each year approximately one in 10 babies are born preterm.

  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the world; approximately three in every 10 deaths around the world are caused by heart disease. At least 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases could be prevented through healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding the use of tobacco.

  • Mental health disorders such as depression are among the 20 leading causes of disability worldwide. Depression affects around 300 million people, a number expected to increase. Fewer than half of those affected have access to adequate treatment and health care.

  • Nearly one in 10 adults—almost 10% of the world’s population—has diabetes. Individuals with diabetes have increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Unsafe water and poor sanitation kill an estimated 1.7 million people annually. Studies show that 88% of diarrhea-related deaths are caused by the consumption of unsafe water.

  • Physical or sexual violence affects 35% of all women. Violence toward women harms their physical, mental and reproductive health. 

The Borgen Project
World Health Organization

Recommended Reading

Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives by Maryn McKenna

Bedlam: An Intimate Journey Into America's Mental Health Crisis by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg 

Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients by Jeremy N. Smith 

Epidemic: Ebola and the Global Scramble to Prevent the Next Killer Outbreak by Reid Wilson 

Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health by Amanda Glassman and Miriam Temin 

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth A. Fenn 

Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction edited by Paul Farmer 

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen 

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah 

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson 

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry 

The Next Pandemic: On the Front Lines Against Humankind's Gravest Dangers by Dr. Ali Khan 

Under the Big Tree: Extraordinary Stories from the Movement to End Neglected Tropical Diseases by Ellen Agler and Mojie Crigler

When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health edited by João Biehl and Adriana Petryna 

Well: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health by Sandro Galea