Introduction: Since the end of the 1990s, globalization has become a common term, facilitated by the social media of today and the growing public awareness of life-threatening problems common to all people, such as global warming, global security and global divides. Review: For the main parameters of health like the burden of disease, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, extreme discrepancies are observed across the world. Infant mortality, malnutrition and high fertility go hand in hand. Civil society, as an indispensable activator of public health development, mainly represented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is characterised by a high degree of fragmentation and lack of public accountability. The World Federation of Public Health Associations is used as an example of an NGO with a global mission and fostering regional cooperation as an indispensable intermediate level. The lack of a globally valid terminology of basic public health functions is prohibitive for coordinated global and regional efforts. Attempts to harmonise essential public health functions, services and operations are under way to facilitate communication and mutual understanding. Recommendations: 1) Given the limited effects of the Millennium Development Goal agenda, the Post-2015 Development Goals should focus on integrated regional development. 2) A code of conduct for NGOs should be urgently developed for the health sector, and NGOs should be registered and accredited. 3) The harmonisation of the basic terminology for global public health essentials should be enhanced.