Globalization has accelerated the spread of health risks, and the health threats of a certain country or region may become a global problem in a short time. Therefore, the health status of the public in one country is not only determined by the political, economic, and cultural development of the land but also affected by the health and safety status of other countries in the world [1
]. Due to the globalization, complexity, and diversification of health influence factors, the development of global health requires all-round cooperation from all countries in the world. Global health, in a broad context, refers to improving public health worldwide, reducing disparities, and protecting against global threats that do not consider national borders [2
Since the 21st century, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, climate change, resource depletion, ethnic conflicts, and poverty have continuously threatened the health of the global public [3
]. Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus in 2019 (COVID-19), the number of people infected with the virus worldwide has reached more than 2.1 million, causing more than 145,000 deaths, and the epidemic has spread to 211 countries (as of 15 April 2020) [4
]. The new coronavirus epidemic has brought tremendous harm and threat to the health of the global public and also exposed many problems in global health governance [5
]. In this context, the global experts and scholars’ attention to global health likely will further increase. To promote the deepening of research in global health, it is particularly essential to comprehensively summarize and review the current research results in the field of global health. Gostin et al. introduced the development history, framework, and deficiencies of global health law, and sought to establish domestic and global links in the field of health law [6
]. Dieleman et al. examined the status and characteristics of fiscal health expenditures in 195 countries/regions and predicted the future development trend of global health spending [7
]. García et al. revealed the severity and causes of corruption in the global health system, noting that policymakers, research scholars, and funders need to clarify their responsibilities and treat corruption as an essential area of research [8
]. Herath et al. combed the research literature of interprofessional education in global health care and analyzed the main differences and features of global health education for undergraduates and postgraduates in developed and developing countries [9
]. Other scholars have reviewed different aspects of global health, such as experience and progress in the prevention and control of infectious diseases [10
], lessons learned and theoretical basis for the implementation of global health security [11
], and mechanisms for international institutions to participate in global health governance [12
]. Most of the existing studies started from a single perspective or focused on a specific research area of global health, which lacks a comprehensive and systematic review of global health research.
Science is not an independent activity. Therefore, the progress of science often needs to summarize previous research results [13
]. In the past, the number of research literature on global health has multiplied [14
]. Because global health research involves multiple disciplines and scattered research themes, it has brought a lot of difficulties for global health researchers to grasp this emerging research area and find research hotspots. Due to the development of technologies such as data mining, information analysis, and graphic drawing, the organic combination of computer technology and traditional mathematical statistics has made it possible for visual analysis of scientific metrology. Scientometrics can intuitively show the information panorama of each discipline through the knowledge map, and explore research hotspots and emerging trends in a particular field [16
]. It is widely used in the areas of environmental ecology [17
], public health [18
], business economics, artificial intelligence [20
], education research, resource science [21
], and medicine.
From a new perspective, this study will use scientometric to comprehensively and systematically review the research in the field of global health. Specific analysis methods such as text mining, word frequency analysis, co-word analysis, cluster analysis, co-citation analysis, and network analysis will be adopted in this research to answer the following questions: (1) What are the changes in international experts’ and scholars’ attention to global health? (2) Which scholars, research institutions, countries, or regions have outstanding influence and contribution to the development of global health research? (3) Which journals have a high impact in the area of global health research? (4) What is the status of scientific research cooperation across global, multi-institution, and different authors in global health? (5) What is the evolutionary context, research frontiers, hot topics, and future trends in global health research?
4.1. General Information
In the analysis of scientific output, we find that the literature on global health research shows a trend of increasing nominally year by year. At the same time, the increase in the number of proceedings papers reflects, to a certain extent, the increase in international academic conferences in the global health field. It shows that international experts and scholars have paid continuous attention to the field of global health. In recent years, there were constant outbreaks of infectious diseases (Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, MERS, Zika, etc.), increased mortality from chronic diseases, ethnic conflicts, and poverty. All of these have aroused widespread international concern and thinking about global health.
Among the five high-impact journals in the global health field, LANCET, NEW ENGL J MED, and JAMA-J AM MED ASSOC are three internationally recognized top journals in the medical field. These three journals have published for more than a century, and they have played a significant role in the history of human medicine. SCIENCE and NATURE are international comprehensive science magazines with a high reputation in academia. Most of the early basic literature and research hotspots in global health research come from these high-impact journals. Scholars in the global health field should pay attention to the scientific achievements published by these journals in real-time.
This article explores scientific research cooperation in the global health field from three perspectives: Micro-author cooperation network, meso-institutional cooperation network, and macro-national cooperation network. Although there are certain academic exchanges and cooperation between authors, institutions, and countries in the global health field, these scientific research collaborations mostly occur between different institutions in a certain country and between significant scholars in an institution. In this field, developed countries (USA, England, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc.) still hold the leading position, while some developing countries (China, India) with a relatively large number of articles have not yet appeared prominent research institutions and scholars. Therefore, more scientific research exchanges with developing countries will be more conducive to the development of global health compared with developed countries taking measures such as medical aid and financial contributions to some developing countries with severe public health problems.
4.2. Research Topics and Emerging Trends
This study explores the research topics and emerging trends in the global health area mainly from two aspects: Keyword co-occurrence analysis and literature co-citation analysis. Keywords can clearly and intuitively reflect the research theme, core research content, and main research direction of an article. Therefore, in the fields of scientific text mining and scientometrics, the co-occurrence analysis of keywords can quickly grasp the development trends and research topics of a specific research field [49
]. From the results of keyword co-occurrence analysis, there are five main research topics in the global health field, including global health goals and directions, research on global health risk factors, research on specific groups and specific countries or regions, and research on cooperative communication mechanisms. The goal of global health is to improve the equity of global health and the quality of life of people worldwide [50
]. The original intention of the rise of global health is based on its effective way of dealing with global health inequity, which provides a new perspective and approach for achieving the goal of global health equity [51
]. Global health focuses on the fairness and health influencing factors of global health, not just the health status and influencing factors of people in a specific country or region. Global health also pays attention to the global distribution of health and disease and its determinants, attaches importance to the impact of globalization on health and changes in the nature of global health governance, and emphasizes interdependence and coping strategies that transcend national and policy sector boundaries [52
After literature citation analysis and cluster analysis, we learned that “global health governance”, “global health diplomacy”, “medical education”, “global health education”, “antimicrobial resistance” and “Zika Virus” are the current research frontiers and hot spots. Global health governance is a tool for dealing with the determinants of a healthy society across sectors [54
]. The theoretical research and practical aspects of global health reflect that poor governance at the national and international levels will undermine the achievement of global health goals [55
]. The catalyst for global health implementation is global health diplomacy. An important change in the 2000 G-8 summit was the linking of foreign policy with global health issues, and global health began to become a major goal and strategy of foreign policy. Global health diplomacy promotes the participation of various actors in the global governance actions taken to solve global health and related issues [56
]. Some sovereign countries have established bilateral or multilateral global health strategies with other countries or organizations through mechanisms such as foreign policy and negotiation and consultation, formulated global health plans, and provided relevant financial and technical assistance to low- and middle-income countries [57
Besides, “quality of life”, “energy balance; adipose tissue; appetite”, “subunit vaccine”, “mental illness”, “mental health”, “community impact”, “health services” and “interaction strategies” are important research topics and directions of global health. Combined with real-time news and past development experience, the current global outbreak of the new coronavirus in 2019 (COVID-19) has exposed many global health problems. Therefore, the prevention and control of infectious diseases, epidemiological studies of infectious diseases, international collaboration on global health, and health assistance will be a new research hotspot and emerging trends.
Despite the positive findings of the study, there are still some limitations. From the perspective of literature data, the literature data in this article only come from the Web of Science core collection database. Moreover, we only selected documents written in English. Secondly, this article does not contain grey literature, such as non-publicly published government documents, dissertations, non-publicly issued conference documents, scientific reports, technical archives, etc. From the perspective of visual analysis, this article does not interpret all the information in the knowledge graph. It is also one of the problems and directions that the follow-up research needs to think of and explore further.
In this study, based on the 14,692 literature data on global health research retrieved from the WOS core collection from 1996 to 2019, we conducted a scientometric analysis of the knowledge structure and knowledge field of global health research. At the same time, a visual analysis of the knowledge unit in the global health field was conducted, and a comprehensive knowledge map was drawn. Research in the global health field is extensive, involving multidisciplinary theories and methods, and its development requires the participation of researchers and new scholars in various fields. Scientific research cooperation between developed and developing countries in the global health field is particularly important and needs to be further strengthened. The mechanism of global health governance, the prevention and control of various infectious diseases, and the cultivation of professionals require long-term attention and discussion. This study provides researchers with an overview of global health through a systematic and comprehensive analysis of scientific output, core authors, significant institutions and countries, high impact journals, research cooperation networks, research topics, and emerging trends in the field of global health research. By presenting a new, comprehensive, and holistic knowledge map, this research contributes to the existing global health knowledge system. It also provides valuable guidance for researchers and related personnel to find the research direction and practice of global health.