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Are national policies on global health in fact national policies on global health governance? A comparison of policy designs from Norway and Switzerland


Background Since the signing of the Oslo Ministerial Declaration in 2007, the idea that foreign policy formulation should include health considerations has gained traction on the United Nations agenda as evidenced by annual General Assembly resolutions on global health and foreign policy. The adoption of national policies on global health (NPGH) is one way that some member states integrate health and foreign policymaking. This paper explores what these policies intend to do and how countries plan to do it.

Methods Using a most similar systems design, we carried out a comparative study of two policy documents formally adopted in 2012. We conducted a directed qualitative content analysis of the Norwegian White Paper on Global health in foreign and development policy and the Swiss Health Foreign Policy using Schneider and Ingram's policy design framework. After replicating analysis methods for each document, we analysed them side by side to explore the commonalities and differences across elements of NPGH design.

Results Analyses indicate that NPGH expect to influence change outside their borders. Targeting the international level, they aim to affect policy venues, multilateral partnerships and international institutions. Instruments for supporting desired changes are primarily those of health diplomacy, proposed as a tool for negotiating interests and objectives for global health between multiple sectors, used internally in Switzerland and externally in Norway.

Conclusion Findings suggest that NPGH designs contribute to constructing the global health governance system by identifying it as a policy target, and policy instruments may elude the health sector actors unless implementation rules explicitly include them. Research should explore how future NPGH designs may construct different kinds of targets as politicised groups of actors on which national governments seek to exercise influence for global health decision-making.

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