BMJ GH: Defining global health as public health somewhere else (13)

2 February, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I have been following this thread and the many engaged responses with great interest. I think the conversation would benefit from an “official” response to the commentary, to be published in the same journal as the original. Since it would be best to not let lots of time pass, I'd love to get a writing group together quickly. I am happy to take the lead on drafting/coordination, but would love a strong set of co-authors (I don’t want this to be from me, I would like it to be from a group with varied, nuanced perspectives on the subject!).

If you are interested in contributing, please email me at and we can put a writing group together.

Here are the main take-aways that I got from the bulk of responses (though of course I wish for everyone to engage and flesh this out):

The definition offered in the original article is certainly parsimonious, but:

- The article makes many excellent points about the practice of “global health” but the definition proposed does not encapsulate these (and in fact may even counteract them or emphasize the more negative points they are hoping to dispel).

- Thinking through “why practice [public health] somewhere else?” is an important consideration, but the definition does not seem to do this justice.

- Many HIFA comments focused around the definition being too narrow, dismissive, and exclusive, with suggestions around “everywhere” rather than “somewhere”, emphasizing what is common to us all.

- Many comments also alluded to considerations of interdependence and a broader health ecosystem that does not necessarily respect sovereign boundaries, rendering “somewhere else” impracticable

- We should focus on the global impacts of our public health practice, including what we do at home– citing the recent Coronavirus outbreak brings this points to the fore

- Finally, a thought: should we even bother to make the distinction between PH and GH?

Please get in touch if you’re interested in co-authoring on this commentary response– I think the debate is worth putting in print, especially as we train the future public/global health leaders across the world.



HIFA Profile: Sara Fischer is a PhD Candidate at Georgetown University in the USA and has a professional interest in global health policy; health systems research; community health workers; and in aid and development.

Email address: sf791 AT