The Multiple Meanings of Global Health Governance: A Call for Conceptual Clarity

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BackgroundThe term global health governance (GHG) is now widely used, with over one thousand works published in the scholarly literature, almost all since 2002. Amid this rapid growth there is considerable variation in how the term is defined and applied, generating confusion as to the boundaries of the subject, the perceived problems in practice, and the goals to be achieved through institutional reform.MethodologyThis paper is based on the results of a separate scoping study of peer reviewed GHG research from 1990 onwards which undertook keyword searches of public health and social science databases. Additional works, notably books, book chapters and scholarly articles, not currently indexed, were identified through Web of Science citation searches. After removing duplicates, book reviews, commentaries and editorials, we reviewed the remaining 250 scholarly works in terms of how the concept of GHG is applied. More specifically, we identify what is claimed as constituting GHG, how it is problematised, the institutional features of GHG, and what forms and functions are deemed ideal.ResultsAfter examining the broader notion of global governance and increasingly ubiquitous term “global health”, the paper identifies three ontological variations in GHG scholarship - the scope of institutional arrangements, strengths and weaknesses of existing institutions, and the ideal form and function of GHG. This has produced three common, yet distinct, meanings of GHG that have emerged – globalisation and health governance, global governance and health, and governance for global health.ConclusionsThere is a need to clarify ontological and definitional distinctions in GHG scholarship and practice, and be critically reflexive of their normative underpinnings. This will enable greater precision in describing existing institutional arrangements, as well as serve as a prerequisite for a fuller debate about the desired nature of GHG.
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Globalization and Health 2014, 10:28 doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-28
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Globalization and Health
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The Multiple Meanings of Global Health Governance: A Call for Conceptual Clarity
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