In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Health Governance

  • Introduction
  • Global Health Governance
  • Globalization
  • World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN System
  • Bretton Woods Institutions
  • Public-Private Partnerships
  • Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Philanthropic Foundations
  • Health as a Human Right and Global Public Good
  • Bioterrorism
  • Biopolitics
  • Gender
  • Pandemic Flu

International Relations International Health Governance
Sophie Harman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 March 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0140


International health governance is an emerging field that combines public health, medical sociology, health economics, international law, anthropology, political science, and international relations. The growing perception of health risks such as pandemic flu, devastating development consequences of HIV/AIDS, and human rights associated with access to health have led to broad formations of international governance around health. These formations of governance involve multiple public and private actors; norms, regimes, and forms of international law; local and global institutions; and a range of differing approaches to how health is understood and practiced and how these differing approaches impact upon inequalities, markets, and rights. The growth of actors and association with health and concerns of international security and health has led to a multitude of works written on the topic that can be impenetrable and hard to navigate and can confound social scientists unfamiliar with biomedical terminology and confuse public health experts not used to security frames and agendas. Hence, the aim of this bibliography is to provide a guide to the different topics associated within the field of international health governance for scholars and students both new to and familiar with the field. The works here should introduce the reader to the field of international health governance and provide them with a comprehensive guide to the key authors and issues. The bibliography seeks to combine an overview of the main actors involved in international health governance (UN bodies, Public-Private Partnerships, Bretton Woods Institutions, Pharmaceutical Companies, Philanthropic Foundations), regulations (International Law), approaches to understanding health (Global Health Governance, Health as a Human Right, and Biopolitics), the threat of health in international relations (Security, Bioterrorism), gaps in international health governance (Gender, and give focus to two specific case studies that have been fundamental to putting health on the international agenda (HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease and Pandemic Flu).

Global Health Governance

The last ten years have seen a growth in texts providing a general overview of international or global health governance. The majority of these texts tend to be edited volumes with chapters specific to key institutions or approaches to international health governance—Kay and Williams 2009; Cooper, et al. 2007; and Buse, et al. 2009—that, while useful in content and the historical and critical overview they provide, can lack a cohesive account of what international health governance refers to and how it can be understood. Davies 2010, Kickbusch 2002, and Harman 2012 differ slightly as these single-authored texts outline several ways of approaching and understanding international health governance as well as containing reference to the various actors and issues involved. McCoy, et al. 2009 highlights a central part of global health governance, the role and impact of financing on institutions and outcomes. Garrett 2007 and Global Health Watch 2011 act as tools of advocacy for international health and demonstrate that the field is both active and academic and has great implications for policy relevance and global agendas. Combined, these papers offer general overviews of the field of international health governance, possible future agendas, and the challenges and problems therein.

  • Buse, Kent, Wolfgang Hein, and Nick Drager, eds. Making Sense of Global Health Governance: A Policy Perspective. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    Edited book that uses a liberal framework to trace the historical evolution of global health governance and offer an agenda for change. Outlines the central actors or “architecture” of global health, the inequalities and shortcomings of health governance, and how identifying governance as a form of collective problem solving can generate ideas for reform. Main strength of the text is its focus on the historical dimensions of global health governance.

  • Cooper, Andrew F., John J. Kirton, and Ted Schrecker, eds. Governing Global Health: Challenge, Response, Innovation. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

    One in a series of edited books published by Ashgate on global health. Includes a range of chapters that focus on change and transformation in global health, the role of security, and political economy, and intergovernmental institutions, with a specific focus on the G8. Clearly written by a range of well-known experts, this is the go-to series for research on the role of the G8/G20 in global health.

  • Davies, Sara. Global Politics of Health. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010.

    Uses statist and globalist approaches to the understanding of health in international relations. Provides a summary of global health actors, before exploring issues such as human rights, conflict, migration, and disease to explain how politics contributes to understanding health. Good introduction on how health is seen in politics and the potential of international relations in explaining policymaking in health governance.

  • Garrett, Laurie. “The Challenge of Global Health.” Foreign Affairs 86.1 (2007): 14–38.

    Overview of the tensions between horizontal and vertical health strategies and how increased money to health can skew the agenda in favor of specific diseases and issues, and can lead to a lack of coordination and leadership and poor allocation and direction of money spent. Advocates for the need for more spending toward structural determinants, maternal health, and life expectancy.

  • Global Health Watch. Global Health Watch 3: An Alternative World Health Report. London: Zed, 2011.

    A critical assessment of the various actors and issues involved within global health. Punchy, case-study-based assessment of current frameworks of global health governance as a basis for alternatives. Features critical analysis of key actors, funders, and issues within global health and has a clear advocacy role. A good source of updated information; check for the newest and most recent reports.

  • Harman, Sophie. Global Health Governance. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012.

    Explores conceptions and understandings of what global health governance is. Focus on classical institutions of global health, e.g., WHO, philanthropic organizations, and civil society, as well as new institutions, e.g., the Global Fund, partnerships, and celebrities. Detailed chapters on the governance of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and neglected health.

  • Kay, Adrian, and Owain David Williams, eds. Global Health Governance: Crisis, Institutions and Political Economy. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    Primary focus on the global political economy aspect of health, but also integrates some arguments from security studies and human security. Collection of chapters that focus on international financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) and the relationship between economism, trade, finance, and global health. Gives a clear introduction for those unfamiliar with concepts such as economism and financial institutions involved in governing health.

  • Kickbusch, Ilona. “Global Health Governance: Some Theoretical Considerations on the New Political Space.” In Health Impacts of Globalization: Towards Global Governance. Edited by Kelley Lee, 192–203. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

    Highlights and explains lack of attention toward global health in global governance. Considers a social constructivist analysis of the WHO Health for All movement and Primary Health Care strategy as a basis for thinking about global health governance. Notes the increasingly politicized nature of public health and outlines the contribution of social constructivism to understandings of global health governance.

  • McCoy, David, Sudeep Chand, and Devi Sridhar. “Global Health Funding: How Much, Where It Comes from, and Where It Goes.” Health Policy and Planning 24 (2009): 407–417.

    DOI: 10.1093/heapol/czp026

    Focuses on the financing of global health and argues that the idea that money for global health initiatives has increased has been exaggerated. Explores the provision, management, and spending of health finance. Argues that health financing is not problematic because of the inflated numbers of aid but also because of fragmentation and organization and that there is a need for civil society as an accountability mechanism within global health.

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