Advancing Global Health – The Need for (Better) Social Science; Comment on “Navigating Between Stealth Advocacy and Unconscious Dogmatism: The Challenge of Researching the Norms, Politics and Power of Global Health”

Document Type : Commentary


London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK


In his perspective “Navigating between stealth advocacy and unconscious dogmatism: the challenge of researching the norms, politics and power of global health,” Ooms argues that actions taken in the field of global health are dependent not only on available resources, but on the normative premise that guides how these resources are spent. This comment sets out how the application of a predominately biomedical positivist research tradition in global health, has potentially limited understanding of the value judgements underlying decisions in the field. To redress this critical social science, including health policy analysis has much to offer, to the field of global health including on questions of governance.


Main Subjects

  1. Ooms G. Navigating between stealth advocacy and unconscious dogmatism: the challenge of researching the norms, politics and power of global health. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2015;4(10):641-644. doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2015.116
  2. Gilson L, Hanson K, Sheikh K, Agyepong IA, Ssengooba F, Bennett S. Building the field of health policy and systems research: social science matters. PLoS Med. 2011;8(8):e1001079. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001079
  3. Walt G. Health Policy: An Introduction to Process and Power. London: Zed Books; 1994.
  4. Walt G, Gilson L. Reforming the health sector in developing countries: the central role of policy analysis. Health Policy Plan. 1994;9(4):353-370. doi:10.1093/heapol/9.4.353
  5. Shiffman J, Smith S. Generation of political priority for global health initiatives: a framework and case study of maternal mortality. Lancet. 370(9595):1370-1379. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61579-7
  6. Walker L, Gilson L. ‘We are bitter but we are satisfied’: nurses as street-level bureaucrats in South Africa. Soc Sci  Med. 2004;59(6):1251-1261. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.12.020
  7. Liverani M, Hawkins B, Parkhurst JO. Political and institutional influences on the use of evidence in public health policy. A Systematic Review. PLoS One. 2013;8(10):e77404. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077404
  8. Murphy EM, Greene ME, Mihailovic A, Olupot-Olupot P. Was the “ABC” approach (abstinence, being faithful, using condoms) responsible for Uganda's decline in HIV? PLoS Med. 2006;3(9):e379. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030379
  9. Buse K, Walt G. Global public-private partnerships: Part II - What are the health issues for global governance. Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78(5):699-709.
  10. Frenk J, Moon S. Governance challenges in global health. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(10):936-942. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1109339
  11. Kickbusch I, Szabo MC. A new governance space for health. Glob Health Action. 2014;7:23507. doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23507
  12. Ottersen OP, Dasgupta J, Blouin C, et al. The political origins of health inequity: prospects for change. Lancet. 383(9917):630-667. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62407-1
  13. Kickbusch I. The political determinants of health—10 years on. BMJ. 2015;350:h81. doi:10.1136/bmj.h81