INTHE4117 – Global Epidemics

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course considers the changing nature of global epidemics of infectious diseases and the global, national and local responses to these, including the role of research and evaluation. It looks into the social, cultural, economic and political factors surrounding epidemic threats such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or the flu, their prevention and control.  We will examine gender relations; poverty; stigma and discrimination; vulnerable populations; and community-based prevention and control; as well as global responses to HIV/AIDS, from patient activism to ‘global health’ interventions. Attention will also be given to understanding the role of biosecurity in framing global epidemics and the relation of responses to epidemic to health system development.

This course will build upon the Fundamentals of International Community Health Class (INTHE4013/14) but with a specific focus on issues surrounding infectious epidemics, the interaction between biology and social factors, and the political architectures of response to epidemics  

Indicative course content (topics):

Topics covered will include:

  1. The global history of epidemics and responses to it, with particular accent on HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and the flu. Impact in different countries and on particular communities; and the changing nature of the epidemics over time.
  2. The role of gender, sexuality, poverty and stigma in the epidemic, and the socio-economic contexts of exposure.
  3. Prevention as ‘social public health’. The role of the community in HIV prevention; and the role of researchers and health professionals in partnerships for prevention.
  4. Architectures of response, including the role of international and global organizations; “global health” interventions, epidemic preparedness and global biosecurity; “community-based” responses and their engagements with prevention and treatment; activism.
  5. The positive and negative impact of responses to epidemics on health systems.
  6. Ethical issues that have arisen within globally-funded clinical trials on anti-infective medicines in Africa.
  7. Important developments, such as drug therapies, national and international control strategies or vaccination programmes. Associated success and challenges, and their relations to issues such as poverty, gender relations and nutrition.
  8. The link between communicable and non- communicable diseases through a focus on co-infections and co-morbidity; lessons learned from HIV-AIDS in relation to other epidemic threats will be discussed.  Students will be encouraged to critically assess the commonalities and differences between epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, TB or the flu. What do they have in common regarding location, vulnerable populations, and the architectures of response including interactions with national health systems?

Learning outcome


You will develop your knowledge about:

  • The impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and the flu in different countries and communities
  • Gender, poverty, and stigma dimensions of epidemics
  • The links between HIV and TB regarding vulnerable population, prevention and treatment issues.
  • Current and future patterns of epidemic prevention, treatment, care, and intervention
  • The architecture of response: programmes and interventions – including global, national and community-level responses, biosecurity
  • Epidemic prevention and social public health
  • Drugs, pharmaceutical companies and global activism
  • HIV/AIDS, clinical trials and ethical issues surrounding access to treatment
  • Epidemic responses and ‘global health’; the impact of global funding on the control of epidemic threats
  • The contribution of social scientific research to understanding epidemics, including emerging areas of research


You will learn:

  • to explore the impact of epidemics, as well as prevention and treatment policies in particular countries, regions and communities
  • to think critically about the relations between the epidemics, gender relations, stigma and poverty
  • to explain the role and impact of global, national and local responses to epidemics
  • to critically analyze issues surrounding access to treatment such as the role of the pharmaceutical industry and of global activism
  • to discuss the ethical issues surrounding clinical drug trials in resource-poor communities.
  • to explore how the issues raised by epidemics, prevention and treatment may be relevant to your own research projects.

General competence

  • You will gain an overview of the key issues surrounding the epidemics in relation to public health, global health and community-based prevention and treatment.
  • You will be able to develop arguments and engage in discussion in both oral and written forms.
  • Critical thinking will be encouraged through an understanding of the history and present of epidemics and responses to them.


Students enrolled at the master programme in International Community Health or Tverrfaglig helseforskning will get priority to the course, if they register in Studentweb before 10 January. The latest deadline to register and apply for the course in Studentweb is February 1.

Students enrolled in other master’s programmes at the UIO can, on application before 10 January via our application form, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme. We prioritize students at other programmes at the Institute and Faculty. You will get an answer latest 20 January.

External applicants, not already enrolled as a student at UIO, are welcome to apply via our application form before 10 January with all relevant documents. Applicants who have not attached all the necessary documents will not get admission. You will need to document 1) upper secondary education, 2) higher education and 3) English language proficiency. Please see the form for more information. You would also need a specialization either within health sciences or social sciences. You will get an answer latest 20 January.


Lectures, discussion and group-work. You have to participate in at least 80 % of the teaching to be allowed to take the exam. Attendance at lectures will be registered.


Home exam.





The Board at the University of Oslo has decided to introduce detailed guidelines for all examinations, which take place at the University. The description of the grading should be clear and transparent. This is done to ensure alignment between learning outcomes, assignments, and grading. The Faculty of Medicine has developed a web page with information regarding exams and the grading procedures (norwegian version).

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language