Tracking Global Health

GHG, WHO and Ebola

The issue of global health received top billing in the latest edition of the IMF’s flagship publication – Finance and Development. With the rise and worrying spread of Ebola, global health has returned to the international agenda with a vengeance. Is the global health governance landscape or the phalanx of institutions, norms and policies aimed at directly or indirectly governing human health globally up to the task of managing the challenge? Devi Sridhar and Chelsea Clinton argue that the recent shifts and changes within the GHG landscape has and is hollowing out the WHO and its ability to provide global leadership when threats like Ebola emerge. The problem is political and institutional. The rise of non-state actors like the Gates Foundation and other coalitions like GAVI and Global Fund that tackle critical public health challenges with aplomb has diminished the WHO’s standing which has resulted in reduced funding for the multilateral body to carry out critical duties as per its charter. Moreover, the rise of emerging powers and their touted entry in the global health landscape has complicated things further since these finance-rich countries are drawing from global health actors to target diseases like TB, Malaria and HIV instead of making public health investments to boost their own systems. In the end, Sridhar and Clinton call for a reinvigorated WHO, without whose leadership and unparalleled technical and institutional advantages, global health challenges will only become harder to resolve.

Why did the WHO become so ineffectual? Several answers exist. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one than from Larry Gostin’s new volume on Global Health Law, published recently. The latest issue of Global Health Governance has reviews of the volume from academics and practitioners of global health. As Suerie Moon writes, ‘Gostin has done a masterful job of covering the breadth of the emerging and evolving field of global health.’ And this includes a cogent exposition of the range of institutions, laws, norms and treaties that exist to govern global health. Moon’s review suggests near the end what many of us know – the inchoate and unstructured nature of global health governance is now becoming more an impediment than as asset. Several areas exist where the need for greater regulation and lawmaking is clear alongside areas where ‘international lawmaking will yield much fruit.’ Wading through these knots to find the right fits is critical to engender a better global health system for the global community.


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