July 17, 2014

Georgetown Scholar Examines Political Economy of Global Health

Jesse Bump, assistant professor in the Department of International Health, convened a conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in May 2014 to explore the application of political economy analysis to universal health coverage. Bump planned the conference in collaboration with Michael Reich, the Taro Takemi Professor of International Health Policy at Harvard University, as part of an effort to understand structural inequalities caused by globalization.

At the School of Nursing and Health Studies, Bump employs political economy as a lens for analyzing and improving global health. He investigates the different ways power operates to create health inequalities.

The Role of Universities in Global Health

Universities play a unique role in global health because the academic community has the time, space, and broad expertise needed for long-term strategic thinking. Bump notes that academic perspectives can  guide efforts to reproduce or scale up projects and pilots. 

“Academics have the expertise and space to analyze larger issues in global health—how we set priorities, what we choose to do... and sometimes new ways to solve problems,” says Bump.

Non-Communicable Diseases and Political Economy

In the twenty-first century, the study of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is of paramount importance because they account for more and more of the disease burden in developing countries. In the past, leading killers were infectious diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever.

“Effectively combating NCDs draws on a different set of tools and approaches because many of these are influenced by habits and lifestyles that are linked to commercial interests," says Bump. "Industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco all play important roles in the political economy of global health.”

Similarly, the prominence of universal health coverage on the global health agenda over the past few years has highlighted the need to develop a framework for analyzing political economy conflicts and to develop solutions. Bump plans to use his understanding of political economy and international experience to make global health reform more effective.

At Georgetown, Bump teaches courses on historical analysis for global health strategy and on global health policy and systems. He is also involved with the B.S. in International Health and M.S. in Global Health programs, as well as gui2de, an interdisciplinary Georgetown initiative that promotes innovative approaches to the design and evaluation of development projects.