The emergence and effectiveness of global health networks: Findings and future research

Jeremy Shiffman, Hans Peter Schmitz, David Berlan, Stephanie L. Smith, Kathryn Quissell, Uwe Gneiting, David Pelletier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Global health issues vary in the amount of attention and resources they receive. One reason is that the networks of individuals and organizations that address these issues differ in their effectiveness. This article presents key findings from a research project on the emergence and effectiveness of global health networks addressing tobacco use, alcohol harm, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality, tuberculosis and pneumonia. Although networks are only one of many factors influencing priority, they do matter, particularly for shaping the way the problem and solutions are understood, and convincing governments, international organizations and other global actors to address the issue. Their national-level effects vary by issue and are more difficult to ascertain. Networks are most likely to produce effects when (1) their members construct a compelling framing of the issue, one that includes a shared understanding of the problem, a consensus on solutions and convincing reasons to act and (2) they build a political coalition that includes individuals and organizations beyond their traditional base in the health sector, a task that demands engagement in the politics of the issue, not just its technical aspects. Maintaining a focused frame and sustaining a broad coalition are often in tension: effective networks find ways to balance the two challenges. The emergence and effectiveness of a network are shaped both by its members' decisions and by contextual factors, including historical influences (e.g. prior failed attempts to address the problem), features of the policy environment (e.g. global development goals) and characteristics of the issue the network addresses (e.g. its mortality burden). Their proliferation raises the issue of their legitimacy. Reasons to consider them legitimate include their members' expertise and the attention they bring to neglected issues. Reasons to question their legitimacy include their largely elite composition and the fragmentation they bring to global health governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i110-i123
JournalHealth policy and planning
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol harm
  • global health policy
  • health policy analysis
  • maternal mortality
  • neonatal mortality
  • networks
  • pneumonia
  • tobacco control
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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