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How can the UK contribute to global health post-Brexit?


At first glance, Brexit does not seem to be good news for the field of global health. Over the years, the EU has established itself as a leading institution in the field of global health, emphasising the importance of multilateral action in the face of cross-border health threats and determinants. This is a position they have reinforced during the pandemic, for instance with the European Commission’s strategic focus on building a European Health Union (1). In contrast, reaffirming the importance of national healthcare was pivotal to the Leave campaign’s success, as exemplified in the now controversial bus advertisement that read “We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead”.

However, historically the UK has also contributed to global health outside of its EU membership, for instance through past commitments to spend 0.7% of GNI on international aid, resulting in the UK spending the second most of any country on aid in 2020 in both absolute ($19 billion) and proportional terms (2). This, combined with the fact that a key sentiment behind the Leave campaign was to break free from an EU membership that held back the UK’s potential on a global stage, leaves us an open question as to whether the UK will choose to reinforce or diminish its historically strong presence in global health.

In this report, we will conduct policy analysis on UK and EU policy on 5 domains of global health: global health security, humanitarian aid, public health capacity building, non-communicable diseases and well-being, and future UK partnerships for Global Health (3). These 5 priorities are heavily inspired by the priorities outlined by the UK’s latest Global Health Strategy which was valid until 2019 (3). For each of the priorities, our analysis will (a) evaluate the impact of Brexit, (b) identify the “windows of opportunity” provided by change in policy and legislation, and (c) recommend policy for the UK to reaffirm and improve its commitment to global health.


Ada Kwan, Doctor at King’s College Hospital

● Andrea Perez Navarro, 3rd year Medical Student at Imperial College London

Edith Coronas, MSc Bioethics at King's College London

Emilie Finch, PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

● Paula Dornbusch, BSc European Public Health Student at Maastricht University

● Sepher Amini, UCL student

● Yasmin Sonbol, MSc Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


1. European Health Union [Internet]. European Commission - European Commission. [cited 2021 Jun 20]. Available from: pean-health-union_en

2. Brien P, Loft P. The 0.7 percent aid target. 2021 Jun 20 [cited 2021 Jun 20]; Available from:

3. Public Health England. Global Health Strategy: 2014 to 2019. 2014 p. 26.

This blog post was prepared by members of the Polygeia London Branch.


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