PLoS Medicine Series on Global Health Diplomacy

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In April PLoS Medicine launched a series on Global Health Diplomacy examining the growing interface between foreign policy and global health. Scholars from international relations and experts in global health present case studies and analyses of how global health diplomacy—the art and practice of conducting negotiations to both improve health and further international relations—mediates between these two realms.

In the introductory article by Harley Feldbaum and Joshua Michaud from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies address how the public health community has “seized upon” the concept of health diplomacy to raise the profile of health in the practice of foreign policy, often uncritically. They observe that foreign policy priorities can often determine priority setting and funding for global health, reflected in recent times by the focus of certain governments on the threat of bioterrorism, risks of infectious disease like H1N1 influenza, and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan designed to “win hearts and minds.”

But, as the authors argue, health interventions are sometimes used to further ulterior foreign policy objectives. For example, “countries are increasingly using health initiatives as a means to improve security, project power and influence, improve their international image, or support other traditional foreign policy objectives.” For this reason, the authors conclude, public health advocates must engage with foreign policy interests with caution.

Kelley Lee from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)—who also serves as the academic editor for the series—and colleagues analyse the growing influence of Brazil in international relations and, in particular, its prominent role in negotiating the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). The authors report that Brazil has achieved this recognition by engaging in “soft power”— a diplomatic approach based on persuasion and collaboration, rather than economic influence or political domination. In the FCTC negotiations, Brazil was instrumental by serving as an exemplar for domestic tobacco control, engaging in “coalition politics,” and providing leadership throughout the negotiation process. This use of soft power in global tobacco control follows on from Brazil’s prominence in the access to medicines debate, focused on upholding the country’s constitutional guarantee of access to anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS and negotiating firmly to ensure access within World Trade Organization guidelines.

The PLoS Medicine series continued with additional case studies examining SARS as a watershed for China’s engagement in global health diplomacy, and the controversies surrounding avian influenza A (H5N1) and pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in potentially limiting equitable access to influenza vaccine. The series concluded on 11 May 2010 with commentary from high-level diplomats – Kerri-Ann Jones of the US State Department and Ambassador Sigrun Møgedal and colleague Benedikte Alveberg from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway – providing critical insights into the challenges of engaging in global health diplomacy.

Related Articles:

Paper 1: ‘Health Diplomacy and the Enduring Relevance of Foreign Policy Interests’  by Harley Feldbaum and Joshua Michaud

Citation: Feldbaum H, Michaud J (2010) Health Diplomacy and the Enduring Relevance of Foreign Policy Interests. PLoS Med 7(4): e1000226. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000226

Click here to access the freely available paper!


Paper 2: ‘Brazil and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: Global Health Diplomacy as Soft Power’ by Kelley Lee and colleagues.

Citation: Lee K, Chagas LC, Novotny TE (2010) Brazil and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: Global Health Diplomacy as Soft Power. PLoS Med 7(4): e1000232. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000232

Click here to access the freely available paper!

Paper 3: ‘China’s Engagement with Global Health Diplomacy: Was SARS a Watershed?‘ by Lai Ha Chan and colleagues

Citation: Chan L-H, Chen L, Xu J (2010) China’s Engagement with Global Health Diplomacy: Was SARS a Watershed? PLoS Med 7(4): e1000266. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000266

Click here to access the freely available paper!

Paper 4: ‘Negotiating Equitable Access to Influenza Vaccines: Global Health Diplomacy and the Controversies Surrounding Avian Influenza H5N1 and Pandemic Influenza H1N1‘ by David P. Filder

Citation: Fidler DP (2010) Negotiating Equitable Access to Influenza Vaccines: Global Health Diplomacy and the Controversies Surrounding Avian Influenza H5N1 and Pandemic Influenza H1N1. PLoS Med 7(5): e1000247. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000247

Click here to access the freely available paper!

Paper 5: ‘New Complexities and Approaches to Global Health Diplomacy: View from the U.S. Department of State‘ by Kerri-Ann Jones

Citation: Jones K-A (2010) New Complexities and Approaches to Global Health Diplomacy: View from the U.S. Department of State. PLoS Med 7(5): e1000276. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000276

Paper 6: ‘Can Foreign Policy Make a Difference to Health?‘ by Sigrun Møgedal and Benedikte Louise Alveberg

Citation: Møgedal S, Alveberg BL (2010) Can Foreign Policy Make a Difference to Health? PLoS Med 7(5): e1000274. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000274


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