In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and Policy

  • Introduction
  • Definitions
  • Background Papers
  • Books and Book Chapters
  • Journals
  • Organizational Practices and Processes
  • Learning from Other Fields

Public Health Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and Policy
Erica Di Ruggiero, Sarah Viehbeck, Modi Mwatsama, Alannah Brown, Hannah Graff, Jane Landon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0161


Increasingly, there are calls for multisectoral interactions including those that involve public and private partners. Requests have been made to the World Health Organization (WHO) for advice to guide state and non-state actors about such multisectoral arrangements on nutrition and non-communicable disease (NCD) policy. Global resource constraints are also creating pressure for the diversification of funding sources for public health interventions and research. Many researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and civil society actors are operating in a policy vacuum, without clear guidance and policies to determine under what conditions public-private interactions should occur and what processes may be needed to protect and promote public health. Public-private interactions can present unique challenges, especially when they involve commercial sectors whose products have also been shown to contribute to NCDs. This bibliography outlines definitional and governance issues arising from conflicts of interest (COI) with emphasis on public health research and policy. It complements another Oxford bibliographies article in Public Health Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity and NCDs by extending the focus on lessons from experiences with other industries (e.g., alcohol, tobacco), researchers, and research funders. An earlier version informed a workshop on strengthening the governance of nutrition partnerships for NCD prevention, entitled “Improving Health through Better Governance Strengthening the Governance of Diet and Nutrition Partnerships for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases” (see UK Health Forum and the CIHR-IPPH 2016, cited under Definitions). The workshop involved twenty participants from fourteen countries representing research, research funding, civil society, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the WHO. Participants highlighted gaps in guidance, capacity, and governance to identify and manage COI and how these circumstances varied by country. Building on workshop input, the works featured herein represent a snapshot of what is available in the peer and gray literatures. We also reviewed competing interests, funding, and author affiliation sections of articles. From this review, it was often difficult to determine whether one or more authors had any competing interests or affiliations with industry. In some cases, the links were either indirect or not specified (e.g., author works for an NGO funded by industry). Greater transparency from authors and journals to declare and publish declarations of these interests is becoming a more common practice. Finally, we note the dearth of literature documenting public-private arrangements in low- and middle-income countries. This bibliography will be of interest to researchers, policymakers, and research funders primarily in public health. We hope it will encourage more research to evaluate different public-private relationships, with sensitivity to the nuances of language (e.g., nature and type of relationships) and influences of global, sociocultural, and political drivers and their differential effects in various country contexts. This bibliography was informed through dialogue at the aforementioned workshop, co-sponsored by the UK Health Forum and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research–Institute of Population and Public Health. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not reflect the position of these organizations.


Foundational to this work is a clearer understanding of definitions and concepts related to public-private partnerships (PPPs). World Health Organization 2015 is a useful starting point.

  • UK Health Forum and the CIHR-IPPH. 2016. Improving health through better governance – Strengthening the governance of diet and nutrition partnerships for the prevention of chronic diseases. UK Health Forum.

    Co-convened by the UK Health Forum and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research–Institute of Population and Public Health, the meeting report summarizes discussions about the challenges PPPs and other interactions can present, when they involve commercial products that contribute to obesity and non-communicable disease (NCDs). Key meeting actions include addressing governance gaps on conflicts of interest (COI) safeguards for food and nutrition policy.

  • World Health Organization. 2015. Public-private partnerships for health. World Health Organization.

    From the WHO Glossary of Globalization, Trade, and Health Terms, this is the WHO definition for public-private partnerships. It includes the scope for such partnerships and examples, and distinguishes such partnerships from privatization.

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