Global Health: A Moment of Opportunity and Peril

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A growing tide of nationalistic populism in Europe and the United States threatens the solidarity upon which the global health movement is based. The proposals of the U.S. President-elect threaten to undermine U.S. leadership on health, development, and the environment. This and monumental health threats such as antimicrobial resistance and climate change and persisting health inequities stand alongside historic opportunities opened by the Sustainable Development Goals. The priority that political leaders place on global health has never been greater—from the G7 and G20 to the World Health Organization and United Nations. This comes during major leadership transitions in the United Nations and World Health Organization, and the re-election of the World Bank’s president.

In this challenging landscape, the new global health leadership should prioritize global health security, including antimicrobial resistance, health system strengthening, and action on mass migration and climate change. To guide their actions, they will need to work as a team, leveraging WHO’s technical competence and normative mandate to set health norms and standards, the UN’s political clout, and the Bank’s economic strength. Human rights, including principles of equality, participation, and accountability, should be their foremost guide, such as holding a UN special session on health inequities, enhancing civil society participation, and advancing the Framework Convention on Global Health. The need for predicable and innovative financing and high ethical standards to prevent conflicts of interest can further guide global health leaders.

Publication Citation

36(1) Health Affairs 159 (2017)