Rise and Fall of Global Health as a Foreign Policy Issue

David P. Fidler

Global health has risen in prominence in foreign policy but now faces a fall in its foreign policy importance. Global health’s recent rise in foreign policy has been unprecedented, but this phenomenon reveals continuity and change in how foreign policy has addressed global health in previous periods. This historical perspective points to the need for a deeper understanding of the relationship between global health and foreign policy, which reveals global health’s unstable place in foreign policy, especially with respect to higher priority foreign policy objectives, such as national security, national economic power, and development. This instability is appearing again and leading to a decline in global health’s foreign policy significance. Structural, political, economic, and epidemiological factors illustrate how global health is experiencing a fall in foreign policy importance. Although a fall is starting, it must be kept in perspective given the unprecedented nature of the rise and uncertainty about what unfolds for global health in the next years. Keeping an eye on key indicators will help reveal the nature and extent of any fall in global health’s stature in foreign policy.