United Kingdom - Global health
At a glance
The UK is the second-largest government donor to global health after the US, funding is increasing
The UK contributed US$2.5 billion to global health or 13% of total ODA in 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral data is available) making the UK the second-largest government donor in absolute terms and the fourth-largest in relative terms. In 2016, the UK contributed 41% of its ODA for health through core contributions to multilaterals, below the DAC average of 56%.
Between 2016 and 2018, the UK’s bilateral ODA to health rose by 24%, from US$1.5 billion to USS$1.8 billion. Health accounted for 14% of the UK’s total bilateral ODA in 2018, an increase from 2016 when it represented just 12%. US$615 million of the UK’s bilateral contributions were channeled as earmarked funding to multilaterals.
Strengthening global health security is a priority for the UK and they seek to leverage their national expertise in public health and medical research to promote this. As part of the 2015 development strategy, the government launched a £1.0 billion fund, known as the Ross Fund to research and develop products for infectious diseases. In 2018, 28% of the UK’s bilateral health spending went to medical research. Given the COVID-19 crisis, this focus on global health security is likely to be further emphasized in the government’s forthcoming development strategy.
Reproductive health care and family planning accounted for 25% of the UK’s bilateral health spending in 2018. At the 2017 London Summit on Family Planning, the UK pledged £225 million (US$300 million) a year for women’s and girls’ access to modern family planning methods between 2017 and 2022. They also provided £30 million (US$40 million) to the Global Financing Facility (GFF) to pilot new ways to leverage donor money to incentivize domestic investment.
Health policy and administrative management accounted for 13% of bilateral spending, reflecting the importance the UK places on health system strengthening in recipient countries. Basic nutrition and infectious disease control both account for 9% respectively, consistent with the UK’s policy of focusing spending on the world’s most vulnerable.
The UK is a strong supporter of multilateral health initiatives. It is the largest donor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi; utilizing all Gavi’s funding channels to pledge a total of US$2.1 billion between 2016 and 2020). The UK hosted the third Gavi replenishment virtually in June 2020 where it committed an additional US$1.7 million for the 2021-25 period. It is the third-largest public donor to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund; pledging $1.7 billion for the 2020 to 2023 funding period), and among the largest funders to the Global Financing Facility (GFF) and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). It is also the largest funder to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), contributing £250 million (US$333 million) to the international effort to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.
DFID was responsible for global health policy development
The Department for International Development, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) used to lead the UK’s global health policy and strategy and had overall responsibility for the UK’s health ODA spending. It is unclear at present what the management structure will look like under the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). From 2016, a global health oversight group with representatives from DFID and DHSC oversaw global health policy and programming of spending on areas of mutual interest between government departments, including the cross-government response to global health threats. Again, it is unclear whether this group will be maintained under the new department.
The UK’s bilateral health programming was highly decentralized under DFID, with country offices leading on designing and managing global health programs within partner countries. Within DFID headquarters, there were two units responsible for global health policy and funding decisions: The Global Funds Department and the Policy Division. The Global Funds Department managed the UK’s contribution to multilateral health funds and its partnerships with these funds. The Policy Division supported new policy development and provided technical support to country programs. It is not yet clear how the UK’s health spending will be organized in the new FCDO.