Global Health Program

About the Global Health Program

The Global Health program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) provides independent, evidence-based analysis and recommendations to help policymakers, business leaders, journalists, civil society, and the general public meet the health challenges that arise in a globalizing world riven by deepening geopolitical tensions.

Population growth and increased trade and travel make it easier for infectious diseases to spread, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows. Diabetes, cancers, and other noncommunicable diseases are surging in low- and middle-income countries and threaten global economic development. Advances in science and technology improve our understanding of viruses, synthetic biology, and gene therapy, but raise biosecurity and biosafety risks and ethical questions. Climate change, urbanization, armed conflict, and still-nascent regulatory and health systems in lower-income nations have raised the priority of health challenges—from food insecurity, pollution, and humanitarian assistance to antibiotic resistance, substandard medicines, and tobacco use—on the agenda for policymakers, businesses, and local communities.

The world's changing health needs place new demands on global governance. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to enact a staggering toll, straining health systems and diverting resources away from other necessary care. International initiatives have made progress treating HIV/AIDS, preventing childhood illnesses, and reducing malaria in many parts of the world. Yet, sustaining and expanding such achievements is not guaranteed. The stability of financing for global health institutions and initiatives is in doubt. New actors in global health—from philanthropic foundations to NGOs to multinational corporations—create not only opportunities for partnership but also policy coordination and coherence challenges. Prevention and treatment of many of the health challenges now confronting low- and middle-income nations depend on local governments and civil society. The role of international initiatives in mobilizing and supporting that local response remains uncertain.

The Global Health program provides the evidence-based analysis that policymakers need to manage the scientific, economic, and political complexities of global health challenges in the twenty-first century. The program disseminates its findings through books, op-eds, articles, and a range of online interactives.