Health Governance and Governance for Health

“Health Governance” refers to policy agenda setting processes, implementation and accountability within the health sector. It includes the management and administration of policies and resources in health, including processes for health systems strengthening.

“Governance for Health” describes a far more multifaceted and complex process of intersectoral collaboration and policy agenda setting, formulation, implementation and accountability whereby multiple sectors, groups of actors and levels of action collaborate and intertwine with the goal of fostering equitable health development. “Governance for Health” thus involves a large number of stakeholders in policy processes and transcends the boundaries of not only specific sectors (e.g. health, trade) but also ‘levels’ of governance (i.e. local, national, regional, international).

Kickbusch & Gleicher (2011) describe governance for health as “the joint actions of health and non-health sectors, of public and private sectors and of citizens for a common interest…attempts of governments and other actors to steer communities, countries or groups of countries in the pursuit of health as integral to well-being through both a ‘whole of government’ and a ‘whole of society’ approach.”

Governance for health is based on an understanding that health is a human right, as well as on the ‘social determinants of health,’ or the notion that determinants and solutions for health often lie outside of the health sector. A good example of ‘governance for health’ is the ‘Health in All Policies‘ approach, whereby the impact of non-health sector policies on health is considered. International organizations and member states have embraced these new concepts as evidenced by ‘Health in All Policies’ approaches as well as Social Determinants of Health initiatives, following the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health and follow-up 2011 Rio World Conference on Social Determinants of Health.