A call for better governance in global health

Given the complex health challenges facing the world today—the continuing threat from infectious diseases, the growing problem of noncommunicable diseases linked with risk factors like obesity and smoking, and health effects stemming from global issues such as climate change and trade policies—it’s crucial that players on the world health stage pursue better ways to manage decisions that affect potentially millions of lives. However, creating more effective global governance to respond to these serious health issues presents daunting challenges, according to Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk and Suerie Moon of Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Frenk and Moon are co-chairs of the Harvard Global Health Institute’s Forum on Global Governance for Health.

Writing in the March 7, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Frenk and Moon say that improving global health governance would require cooperation and coordination among nations, multilateral institutions (e.g. the United Nations, World Health Organization), hybrid organizations (e.g. Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria), and other policymaking groups (e.g. World Trade Organization) whose actions can influence health. Forging consensus on health policy among all of these players is difficult, as is ensuring adequate accountability mechanisms. Nevertheless, the authors write, “Innovative global governance arrangements should continue to be tested, evaluated, improved, and—where successful—replicated.”

The article by Frenk and Moon is the third in NEJM’s series on global health. The January 3, 2013 kickoff article in the series was written by David Hunter, HSPH dean of academic affairs and Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention, and Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine and former HSPH dean; and another article in the series, also published January 3, titled “Disease Eradication,” was authored by Donald Hopkins, MPH ’70, vice president of health programs for the Carter Center and former acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the NEJM article by Julio Frenk and Suerie Moon

Read the NEJM series kickoff article by David Hunter and Harvey Fineberg

Read the NEJM article by Donald Hopkins