Editorials World Bank and Financing Global Health

Will markets be master or servant to health at the World Bank?

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4676 (Published 17 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4676
  1. Suerie Moon, director of research1,
  2. Gorik Ooms, professor of global health law and governance2
  1. 1Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: S Moon suerie.moon{at}graduateinstitute.ch

Reconciling public health goals with its market orientation remains a challenge

In the 18 years since a six part series by Abbasi in The BMJ argued that the World Bank merits greater attention from the health community, the institution has received little scrutiny from global health scholars.1 This is despite its substantial and growing role in the health sector. A recently published series of articles by Sridhar and colleagues does much to fill this gap.23456 The authors paint a detailed picture of the bank’s historical activities, growing investments, and considerable evolution in its approaches to health. They also critically analyse more recent developments. Whether considering the growth of health related trust funds at the bank,3 its role in universal health coverage,4 the recently launched global financing facility for women and children’s health,5 or the pandemic emergency financing facility,6 the series persistently grapples with two key questions: firstly, can the bank’s market oriented approach be consistent with health equity objectives such as the globally endorsed goal of universal health coverage? Secondly, how can the bank’s immense economic and intellectual power be appropriately governed?

Policy change

In the 1980s and ’90s the World Bank “advised, …

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