The Global Health Policies of the EU and its Member States: A Common Vision?

Document Type : Original Article


1 Centre for EU Studies, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

2 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

3 Centre for Global Health Research, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

4 Clingendael, Netherlands Institute of International Relations, The Hague, The Netherlands


This article assesses the global health policies of the European Union (EU) and those of its individual member states. So far EU and public health scholars have paid little heed to this, despite the large budgets involved in this area. While the European Commission has attempted to define the ‘EU role in Global Health’ in 2010, member states are active in the domain of global health as well. Therefore, this article raises the question to what extent a common ‘EU’ vision on global health exists.

This is examined through a comparative framing analysis of the global health policy documents of the European Commission and five EU member states (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Denmark). The analysis is informed by a two-layered typology, distinguishing global health from international health and four ‘global health frames,’ namely social justice, security, investment and charity.

The findings show that the concept of ‘global health’ has not gained ground the same way within European policy documents. Consequently, there are also differences in how health is being framed. While the European Commission, Belgium, and Denmark clearly support a social justice frame, the global health strategies of the United Kingdom, Germany, and France put an additional focus on the security and investment frames.

There are different understandings of global/international health as well as different framings within relevant documents of the EU and its member states. Therefore, the existence of an ‘EU’ vision on global health is questionable. Further research is needed on how this impacts on policy implementation.


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  • Receive Date: 18 February 2017
  • Revise Date: 11 September 2017
  • Accept Date: 12 September 2017
  • First Publish Date: 01 May 2018