Key Readings on Funding for Global Health


The following reading list was prepared in October 2016 by Katrina Plamondon, project lead for the Gathering Perspectives Studies, and Co-Chair of the Coalition’s Policy and Advocacy Committee. Of course, there are numerous academic articles and resources on funding practices and trends for global health research. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, and instead showcase a “sampling” of resources written on the topic that can be read separately, or in conjunction with the Stories of Funding Collection.  If you have any suggestions for “must read” resources on global health funding, please let us know using the comment box below, or by emailing us at

General funding for Global Health (major actors and context overview)

1.  Lancet, T. (2009). Who runs global health?. The Lancet373(9681), 2083.

Abstract: The past two decades have seen dramatic shifts in power among those who share responsibility for leading global health. In 1990, development assistance for health—a crude, but still valid measure of influence—was dominated by the UN system (WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA) and bilateral development agencies in donor countries. Today, while donor nations have maintained their relative importance, the UN system has been severely diluted. This marginalisation, combined with serious anxieties about the unanticipated adverse effects of new entrants into global health, should signal concern about the current and future stewardship of health policies and services for the least advantaged peoples of the world.

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 2. McCoy, D., Chand, S., & Sridhar, D. (2009). Global health funding: How much, where it comes from and where it goes. Health policy and planning,24(6), 407-417.

Article Summary: Global health funding has increased in recent years. This has been accompanied by a proliferation in the number of global health actors and initiatives. This paper describes the state of global heath finance, taking into account government and private sources of finance, and raises and discusses a number of policy issues related to global health governance. A schematic describing the different actors and three global health finance functions is used to organize the data presented, most of which are secondary data from the published literature and annual reports of relevant actors. In two cases, we also refer to currently unpublished primary data that have been collected by authors of this paper. Among the findings are that the volume of official development assistance for health is frequently inflated; and that data on private sources of global health finance are inadequate but indicate a large and important role of private actors. The fragmented, complicated, messy and inadequately tracked state of global health finance requires immediate attention. In particular it is necessary to track and monitor global health finance that is channelled by and through private sources, and to critically examine who benefits from the rise in global health spending.

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“Global Health” as a concept

1. Macfarlane, S. B., Jacobs, M., & Kaaya, E. E. (2008). In the name of global health: trends in academic institutions. Journal of Public Health Policy,29(4), 383-401.

Article Summary: This paper describes accelerating development of programs in global health, particularly in North American academic institutions, and sets this phenomenon in the context of earlier programs in tropical medicine and international health that originated predominantly in Europe. Like these earlier programs, the major focus of the new global health programs is on the health needs of developing countries, and perhaps for this reason, few similar programs have emerged in academic institutions in the developing countries themselves. If global health is about the improvement of health worldwide, the reduction of disparities, and protection of societies against global threats that disregard national borders, it is essential that academic institutions reach across geographic, cultural, economic, gender, and linguistic boundaries to develop mutual understanding of the scope of global health and to create collaborative education and research programs. One indication of success would be emergence of a new generation of truly global leaders working on a shared and well-defined agenda–and doing so on equal footing.

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Canadian Investments & Experiences in Funding GHR

1. Daibes, I., & Sridharan, S. (2014). Where theory and practice of global health intersect: The developmental history of a Canadian Global Health Initiative. Global Health Action7.

Article Summary: This paper examines the scope of practice of global health, drawing on the practical experience of a global health initiative of the Government of Canada–the Teasdale-Corti Global Health Research Partnership Program. A number of challenges in the practical application of theoretical definitions and understandings of global health are addressed. These challenges are grouped under five areas that form essential characteristics of global health: equity and egalitarian North-South partnerships, interdisciplinary scope, focus on upstream determinants of health, global conceptualization, and global health as an area of both research and practice.

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2. Di Ruggiero, E., Zarowsky, C., Frank, J., Mhatre, S., Aslanyan, G., Perry, A., & Previsich, N. (2006). Coordinating Canada’s research response to global health challenges: The Global Health Research Initiative. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Sante’e Publique, 29-31.

Article Summary: The Global Health Research Initiative (GHRI) involving the Canadian International Development Agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada and the International Development Research Centre seeks to coordinate Canada’s research response to global health challenges. In light of numerous calls to action both nationally and internationally, an orientation to applied health policy and systems research, and to public health research and its application is required to redress global inequalities in wealth and health and to tackle well-documented constraints to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Over the last four years, the GHRI has funded close to 70 research program development and pilot projects. However, longer-term investment is needed. The proposed dollars 100 million Teasdale-Corti Global Health Research Partnership Program is such a response, and is intended to support teams of researchers and research users to develop, test and implement innovative approaches to strengthening institutional capacity, especially in low- and middle-income countries; to generating knowledge and its effective application to improve the health of populations, especially those most vulnerable; and to strengthen health systems in those countries. While Canada stands poised to act, concerted leadership and resources are still required to support “research that matters” for health and development in low- and middle-income countries.

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3. Neufeld, V. R., & Spiegel, J. (2006). Canada and global health research: 2005 update. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Sante’e Publique, 39-41.

Article Summary: From a global perspective, large disparities persist between the focus of health research investments and the global burden of illness. Over the past four years, Canadian efforts to address these disparities have steadily increased. The objectives of this paper are to present these recent achievements and to highlight continuing challenges. We summarize the activities of two complementary Canadian initiatives, both aimed at increasing Canada’s investment and involvement in global health research. They are the Global Health Research Initiative–a partnership involving four federal agencies; and the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research–a not-for-profit membership organization. Several achievements include: increased investment in global health research; increased knowledge production and use through “South-Canada” partnerships; stronger advocacy and increased awareness; enhanced capacity development; and improved coordination and communication. Based on these achievements, important current and future challenges are identified. They include: more coherent resource allocation; more focussed health research priorities; and the need to maintain and build momentum.

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4. Stephen, C., & Daibes, I. (2010). Defining features of the practice of global health research: An examination of 14 global health research teams. Global Health Action3.

Article Summary: This paper strives to develop a pragmatic view of the scope of practice and core characteristics of global health research (GHR) by examining the activities of 14 Canadian-funded global health teams that were in the process of implementing research programs.

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