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270.320 Global Change and Human Health

John McDaris
George Fisher, Jonathan Patz, Hugh Ellis

Course URL:
Course Type:

Earth Systems Science

Course Size:


The course begins by focusing on the dynamics of Earth's physical systems and the impacts of increasing human population on those systems, and concludes by examining several critical health issues in light of our understanding of how the Earth systems work.

Course Context:

The course, offered in the winter of 2001, was a collaboration between faculty drawn from the Schools of Public Health, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering. The class had 2 lecture sessions per week.

Course Goals:

This course is designed to:

  • explore the connections between disease and Earth's environment
  • consider the implications of those links for human health in a changing environment
  • examine the problems of making health policy decisions without a complete understanding of the connections.

Course Content:

This course covers issues such as atmospheric and oceanic systems, ecology, epidemiology, population, air pollution, established and emerging diseases and agriculture. The class finishes the term by conducting a Mini-Kyoto Conference to experience the complexity of these issues in a political sense.

Teaching Materials:

There are two required texts for this course.

  • Aron, Joan L. and Jonathan A. Patz, Eds. (2001). Ecosystem Change and Public Health: A Global Perspective, Johns Hopkins University Press (in press).
  • McMichael, A. J. (1993). Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and The Health of the Human Species; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 352 p.

The course website contains the class schedule.


Grades will be based on homework, the mid-term and final exams, and presentations at the Mini-Kyoto Conference in the proportions:

Final Exam - 40%
Mid-term Exam - 25%
Homework - 15%
Mini-Kyoto presentations - 20%

References and Notes: