Global Health Diplomacy: a New Multidisciplinary Course

Global health diplomacy is a discipline that has emerged in response to one of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals: a commitment to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

This year sees the launch of a new short course in the increasingly important field of  global health diplomacy. The five-day course will run from 8-12 July 2019.

Dr Lyndsay Baines, who will be leading the course with David Kerr, Professor of Oncology at the University of Oxford, believes it will be the first of its kind in the world.

The health and wellbeing of populations around the globe

‘In order to improve the health and wellbeing of populations around the globe, from all countries, we need to push for universal health coverage,’ explains Dr Baines. ‘And as a high-income country, along with America, Australia and Canada, there have been a number of initiatives whereby our civilians or our military, our not-for-profit organisations, have led health missions into low-income countries to help them build their healthcare and to help make universal health coverage affordable.’

But gaining access to a country to help build healthcare is far from straightforward – and this is where global healthcare diplomacy comes in.

Dr Baines describes it as a ‘negotiation process which happens at many different levels: diplomatic level, state level, country level, inter-country, right on the ground with the local people. It happens at many different levels in order to gain access and to promote and to further the goals of global health.’

Current diplomacy, she adds, ‘is very bilateral. It's usually diplomacy between two countries. When you have diplomacy between more than two countries, then you're in global health diplomacy.’ That kind of multilateral negotiation can be complex, she says: ‘As you’re seeing with Brexit, everybody comes to the table with a different agenda, and different priorities.’

Tackling problems through diplomatic negotiation

The five-day course will run from 8-12 July this year. Before it begins, attendees will be expected to undertake 10 hours of pre-course preparation.

The course itself will focus on how diplomatic negotiation can help tackle health problems through policies that tackle issues such as global health threats, improved governance of health systems, universal health coverage and the effect on national budgets of rising healthcare costs. The final day in Oxford will involve attendance at a conference on global health diplomacy.  

Attendees will be taught by globally-renowned experts, through a mix of presentations, discussions, seminars, case studies and a simulated panel negotiation exercise.

‘We have been absolutely overwhelmed with key leaders in the field from around the world contacting us to participate in the course and also to contribute to the course,’ says Dr Baines.

The week might also include live examples of global health diplomacy, she adds. ‘We want the course to be very current, so, because of the extent of our connections collectively as a faculty, if, for example, the British military or the American military deployed like they did during the hurricane last year, there will be the possibility for us to Skype people in from situations that are actually ongoing.’

Once the face-to-face part of the course is over, students will be expected to engage in follow-up study and online discussion before completing a 4,000-word assessed assignment, applying the content of the course to their professional work.

A broad-based set of skills

There will be between 25 and 30 places on the course, which Dr Baines anticipates will fill up quickly.

She is expecting attendees from a broad range of backgrounds, including leaders of not-for-profit organisations, lawyers, nurses, economists and epidemiologists, as well as ‘a number of career diplomats who are already working in diplomacy and finding that they need a better background in global health.’ She hopes to see community representatives too: ‘In order to get access to populations, we need to be able to negotiate and converse with the people with whom they would look to for advice, so that could be religious leaders, teachers, stakeholders in the community.’

If attendees successfully complete the course, they will be eligible to earn 20 CATS-equivalent points, which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification. Attendance is likely to provide a career boost, adds Dr Baines.

‘Anybody who's working in the field of global health, whether they are a civilian, working for a not-for-profit or a government employee, from whatever field, would come away from the course with a set of skills which would enable them to negotiate on many levels across a very broad stakeholder base,’ says Dr Baines. ‘And that's a huge workplace skill at the moment which is in demand from employers.’


Find out more about our Global Health Diplomacy short course


Published 4 February 2019