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Centers & Programs

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, and the public meet the health challenges of a globalized world. These challenges include infectious diseases that cross borders with easier trade and travel, the rapid growth of noncommunicable diseases in working-age people in developing countries, and the emerging perils of antibiotic resistance and climate change. These changing health needs place new demands on international institutions and initiatives at a time when their long-term financing is in doubt. Through rigorous research, articles, and online-interactives, CFR's experts work to advance evidence-based analysis and informed decision-making in global health.
6 million children die before their fifth birthday each year

Program Experts

Program Director

Thomas J. Bollyky

Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development and Director of the Global Health Program

David P. Fidler

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Cybersecurity and Global Health

Yanzhong Huang

Senior Fellow for Global Health

  • Infectious Diseases

    In 1968, two recent U.S. medical school graduates working in Dhaka, Bangladesh, developed oral rehydration solution—a mixture of water, sugar, and salt—that the British medical journal the Lancet has hailed “potentially the most important medical advance of the twentieth century.” These two doctors, Richard Cash, senior lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and David Nalin, professor emeritus at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases at Albany Medical College, discussed the fifty-year legacy of their invention and the lessons that legacy offers to the health challenges emerging in lower income nations today.
  • Health

    The symposium held on April 16, 2019 explored the changing relationship of trade and health. The event convened experts to discuss the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases rising in poor nations, as well as the overuse of existing antibiotics and underinvestment in new ones threatening to bring about a post-antibiotic era. The panels examined the deep tensions between health, trade, and commercial interests generated by efforts to confront these health concerns. The event was sponsored by CFR's Global Health Program with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
  • Health Policy and Initiatives

    The future of global health is urban. There are 4.2 billion city dwellers worldwide, accounting for 55 percent of the world’s population. The population of city dwellers globally is projected to grow by 2.5 billion by 2050, with nearly 90 percent in lower-income nations in Africa and Asia. The evidence suggests that urban residents have better health than their rural counterparts but that the advantages of urban life are unevenly distributed. Too little attention has been given to the essential role of health-care delivery, especially among poorer and more vulnerable populations. With shared challenges, there is an opportunity for health-care providers to low-income populations in different nations to learn from one another. The featured speakers for this discussion were Alex Ezeh, professor of global health at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and Nilesh Kalyanaraman, chief health officer at Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore. 
  • Health

    Pollution kills nine million people each year and sickens many more, mostly in poorer nations. The global health effects of climate change are less well quantified, but also increasing with lower-income countries again bearing the brunt of greater food insecurity, increased rates of chronic respiratory illnesses, and shifts in malarial zones. CFR’s Global Health, Economics, and Development Roundtable Series held a discussion on the global health nexus between climate change and pollution and how a more coherent approach to these issues can advance progress at a time when some policymakers, especially in the United States, are unmoved by the environmental, health, and economic consequences expected in the coming decades. The featured speaker for this discussion was Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and recent co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.
  • Health Policy and Initiatives

    Nearly forty years ago, Jon Rohde wrote a paper that argued that the “road to health has shortcuts,” advocating a strategy of expanded childhood immunization that helped inspire the UNICEF and World Health Organization campaign to improve child survival. In recent years, the field of global health has been moving away from donor-funded international initiatives on individual diseases, and toward mostly domestically-financed investments in universal healthcare, quality health systems, and achieving health for all. The role of philanthropy in this transition remains a work in progress. This meeting of CFR's Global Health, Economics, and Development Roundtable Series held a discussion of that role and whether technology-driven, community-focused initiatives might still offer shortcuts on the long road to better health. The featured speaker for this discussion was Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Health

    Panelists discuss the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic as we near its centennial and how this historic outbreak informs our responses to global health emergencies today.
  • Global

    Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, and Richard Hatchett, acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) discuss spurring the development and delivery of medical tools to prepare for emerging infectious disease outbreaks as part of the Global Health, Economics, and Development Roundtable Series.