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Global health security and universal health coverage: from a marriage of convenience to a strategic, effective partnership
  1. Clare Wenham1,
  2. Rebecca Katz2,
  3. Charles Birungi3,4,
  4. Lisa Boden5,
  5. Mark Eccleston-Turner6,
  6. Lawrence Gostin7,
  7. Renzo Guinto8,
  8. Mark Hellowell9,
  9. Kristine Husøy Onarheim10,
  10. Joshua Hutton11,
  11. Anuj Kapilashrami12,
  12. Emily Mendenhall13,
  13. Alexandra Phelan14,
  14. Marlee Tichenor15,
  15. Devi Sridhar15
  1. 1 Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
  2. 2 Center for Global Health Science and Security, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  3. 3 Institute for Global Health, University College London, London, UK
  4. 4 UNAIDS, Geneva, Switzerland
  5. 5 Global Academy of Agriculture and FoodSecurity, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  6. 6 Keele University, Keele, UK
  7. 7 O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Centre, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  8. 8 Harvard University T H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  9. 9 Global Health Policy Unit, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  10. 10 Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  11. 11 University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  12. 12 Centre for Global Public Health, Queen Mary University, London, London, UK
  13. 13 Georgetown University Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  14. 14 Georgetown University O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  15. 15 University of Edinburgh Division of Health Sciences, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Clare Wenham; c.wenham{at}


Global health security and universal health coverage have been frequently considered as “two sides of the same coin”. Yet, greater analysis is required as to whether and where these two ideals converge, and what important differences exist. A consequence of ignoring their individual characteristics is to distort global and local health priorities in an effort to streamline policymaking and funding activities. This paper examines the areas of convergence and divergence between global health security and universal health coverage, both conceptually and empirically. We consider analytical concepts of risk and human rights as fundamental to both goals, but also identify differences in priorities between the two ideals. We support the argument that the process of health system strengthening provides the most promising mechanism of benefiting both goals.

  • universal health coverage
  • global health security
  • health systems strengthening
  • risk
  • human rights

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Contributors All authors contributed to a two-day workshop discussion where the content of this paper was developed. It was subsequently written up by CW, RK and DS. All authors reviewed and made comments on the draft text before submission.

  • Funding Funding to support the workshop that this paper came out of was provided from the Georgetown Global Initiative and the Global Health Governance Programme at Edinburgh, supported by the Wellcome Trust [106635].

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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