Evaluating the total numbers of people at risk from infectious disease in the world requires not just tabular population data, but data that are spatially explicit and global in extent at a moderate resolution. This review describes the basic methods for constructing estimates of global population distribution with attention to recent advances in improving both spatial and temporal resolution. To evaluate the optimal resolution for the study of disease, the native resolution of the data inputs as well as that of the resulting outputs are discussed. Assumptions used to produce different population data sets are also described, with their implications for the study of infectious disease. Lastly, the application of these population data sets in studies to assess disease distribution and health impacts is reviewed. The data described in this review are distributed in the accompanying DVD.