International Health Organizations (IHOs): The history for the future network (International Highlight Notice)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: History


International Health Organisations (IHOs) concern themselves with all aspects of health and healthcare in the twenty-first century. They take forms as varied as the World Health Organisation, the Red Cross/Crescent, Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Anti-Doping Agency and Christian Aid. Their remit is broad and wide-ranging, intervening in times of disaster, providing basic healthcare services where they do not already exist, setting standards and promoting practices, cajoling individual states into concerted action, and promoting particular views of health and healthcare. Yet this has not always been the case, and health agencies that transcend national boundaries and draw on transnational funding and expertise are a recent historical phenomenon.

While there is a number of studies of particular institutions and movements, the IHO has rarely been viewed as a distinct phenomenon in the history of health and healthcare in the modern period. This network seeks to address this by bringing together historians and those from related disciplines with relevant research interests. It aims to provide fresh insights into particular periods, organisations and case studies, but also to explore the potential of comparative perspectives, and of teasing IHOs out of the wider history of health and medicine in modernity.

Key questions include:

1. What agendas and ideologies shaped the emergence of IHOs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?
2. Who has established and resourced IHOs, why, and has this changed over time?
3. How far have IHOs met their objectives and what shaped or prevented success?
4. What impacts have IHOs had in the locales where they have been embedded?
5. To what extent have locals worked with or against IHOs and what shaped their approaches?
6. In what ways has the emergence of the IHO had wider impacts on international relations, and on domestic relations within countries and cultures?
7. What does the emergence of the IHO over the last two centuries tell historians about the history of medicine, and of modernity?
8. How can historical perspectives shape future strategies and trajectories for those working with or within contemporary IHOs?

The network will tackle these questions at a time of transition and new challenges for IHOs. The WHO launched a period of internal reform after its Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly and in 2015 is expected to announce its 12th General Programme of Work, which provides the framework for an organization-wide programme of interventions, budgeting and resource-allocation for the period 2016-2025. In part these changes have been in response to crises such as the ban in 2011 on IHO programmes in Somalia by al-Shabaab, the armed militant Islamic organisation, and the ongoing difficulties reported by organisations like The International Committee of the Red Cross and UNICEF in delivering medical services to refugees and the civilian population in Syria. The network will therefore not simply bring together historians, but will also draw in those working in today's IHOs in order to create an interface between history and the contemporary context in order to test how far looking to the past can shape future strategy and policy.

Planned Impact

For details see Pathways to Impact Statement

Users and Beneficiaries

1. International Health Organizations (IHOs): The network will seek to create an interface for those working within IHOs to enable them to seek to use the experiences of the past to inform the strategies of the future (see Methods below).

2. UK Government: The British government delivers much of its £12 billion international aid budget through IHOs such as The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) and the WHO. The network will establish contacts with the Department for International Development (DFID) in order to provide historical perspectives on their programmes (see Methods below).

3. Schools in Britain: Health and Wellbeing and Social Subjects are central to the National Curriculum in England and Wales and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. The network will seek to provide support material for teachers to draw on research generated by this network in order to improve classroom delivery (see Methods below).

4. The Media: The network will work to establish itself as a first point of contact for media organisations researching stories on IHOs (see Methods below)

Methods for communications and engagement

A key aspect of the Network will be the establishment of the Advisory Group to plan a coherent communications and engagement strategy based on the KE experience of members.

1. Networking: The establishment of the network and the legitimising impact of an award by the AHRC will raise the profile of the group. This in turn will be used to as a basis for securing relationships within IHOs, with government in the UK, with education professionals and with the media.

2. Media strategies: Dr Matt Smith, a member of the CSHHH Glasgow and of the network, was an AHRC-BBC New Generation Thinker in 2012-2013. He will use his experience and range of contacts to advise colleagues on effective mechanisms for engaging with both relevant media organisations, and the media offices of key IHOs.

3. Working with IHOs/Government: Across the network members have a range of experience in working with colleagues in IHOs and government and this will be drawn upon in shaping strategies for engaging participants in the network from those organisations.

4. Education: One goal of the proposed Graduate Conference and Training Meeting will be the production of teaching materials to be integrated into existing systems at the University of Strathclyde for translating academic research into schools delivery.

5. The website: The network website will provide a permanent focus for 1-4 above. It will include a facebook account and a blog. It will be permanently hosted by the University of Strathclyde.
Description This network brought together more than seventy academics to take up the challenges of stimulating further research into IHOs, and providing fully informed, international, comparative historical perspectives on these organisations, both for the academic community and for those working within the IHOs themselves. Outcomes include a range of publications, a number of follow-on activities, and enhanced relationships between UK universities and institutions abroad, particularly in China where the new Centre for Development Studies at Shanghai University grew from the meetings hosted there (
Exploitation Route Follow-up conference, 'The Meaning(s) of Global Public Health: scholarly and policy implications', November 28 to 30 November 2018 at the Brocher Centre, Geneva.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy,Other

Description ???? The Shanghai Initiative: Medical Humanities futures in the UK and Asia
Amount £136,034 (GBP)
Funding ID 205738/Z/16/Z 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 02/2018
Description Wellcome Trust Investigator Award
Amount £998,000 (GBP)
Funding ID WT200394/Z/15/Z 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 09/2020
Description ???? The Shanghai Initiative: Medical Humanities futures in the UK and Asia 
Organisation Shanghai University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Key Goals This programme of exchange and networking will: i. Drive the Medical Humanities as it evolves into a mature disciplinary field in China. ii. Place collaborative working with UK institutions at the heart of this process. iii. Establish a generation of scholars in the Medical Humanities with experience of research, training and teaching in both China and the UK who are capable of innovating in both. Context Since 2012 members of the CSHHH Glasgow and the College of Liberal Arts at Shanghai University have worked together on a range of activities to develop international collaboration in the Medical Humanities. The core objective has been to connect the two institutions in order to jointly conduct research, training and teaching so that the Medical Humanities grows as a subject area in both countries and emerges as a major field in China. The WT, the AHRC, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the China Scholarship Council and both universities have invested in these preliminary activities. Activities This proposal will see the partnership develop the capacity to deliver new forms of student experience and engage with fresh areas of activity through a postgraduate/ECR exchange scheme and three Medical Humanities showcase events in China.
Collaborator Contribution I am PI and Professor Yong-an Zhang of Shanghai University is Co-I. We will act as co-ordinators of the above activities at each institution.
Impact Medical Humanities research. Outcomes will be Outcomes 1. A future generation of Medical Humanities scholars able to connect academic cultures in the UK and China and to generate innovative research in each. The focus on ECR exchange and on postgraduate networking through showcase event 3 is designed to grow the capacity of the collaboration to integrate those entering the field over the coming years in the UK and in East Asia so that they are able to work effectively together and in one another's academic settings. 2. Masters awards and publications. The proposal will also produce a pioneering UK-China Masters exchange scheme which sees the CSHHH Glasgow deliver a one-year M.Sc. in Health History as part of a three-year Chinese Masters degree. The China ECR Fellowship scheme will allow post-doctoral researchers to complete their first publications and research grant applications. 3. Three international conferences. To date the conferences hosted in Shanghai have brought together East Asian scholars from across China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan with those from universities in the UK, Europe, India, the US, Canada and Australia. The outcome of the showcase events will be further new connections and collaborations in the Medical Humanities between academic cultures that have sometimes remained distant from each other and new impetus to the global expansion of the field. With the CSHHH Glasgow, the SSHM and the WT behind the series of events this proposal would see academics based in the UK providing leadership and vision to drive these processes. 4. The three conferences will also produce edited collections of papers from proceedings and further funding applications for future events. 5. A Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science application. This proposal is designed as the next step towards a proposal for this scheme that would see multiple partners in the UK and East Asia work together to establish collaboration between academics in these places as a driver of innovation in the Medical Humanities and of fresh new approaches to global health challenges.
Start Year 2016