Global Health Justice and Governance Program


The Global Health Justice and Governance Program (GHJG) is a university-wide initiative housed in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. GHJG addresses complex public health challenges by advancing justice in the areas of gender, environment, and food. The program integrates public health, legal, and scientific scholarship and practice from across Columbia University to promote, protect, and fulfill the right to health. GHJG seeks to affect change at the interface of public health, justice, and governance, which is unique among schools of public health. By analyzing how standards – whether they are existing, missing, formal, or informal – either promote or hinder justice in health outcomes, we work towards fulfillment of the human right to health.

We are committed to the beliefs that:

  • Social movements and activism are critical to justice and human rights, improved governance, and accountability. 

  • Research should be generated in partnership with affected individuals to influence the governance standards that affect their lives and livelihoods at the intergovernmental or national level. 

  • Corporate accountability and transparency are vital to public health.


Global Health Justice and Governance, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Mailman School, Population and Family Health

Marta Schaaf and Emily Maistrellis with colleagues at the Center for Research on Environment, Population, & Health Activities (CREPHA) in Nepal, where they participated in a training for researchers to collect data on the impact of the Global Gag Rule (GGR).

GHJG seeks to convene interdisciplinary collaborations across the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, engaging both scholars and practitioners with expertise in human rights, public health, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. In partnership with community-level actors, we will draw on emerging and innovative work in public health and development, including qualitative and quantitative approaches to systems thinking, “doing development differently,” health and human rights, accountability, health systems policy and research, and social epidemiology. Faculty will interrogate where governance is missing, as, for example, in environmental degradation and its impacts on health. We seek to determine whether existing standards are sufficient or if they are creating injustice by compounding inequality and undermining the right to health. While GHJG has formulated objectives in each of the three domains of food, gender, and the environment, the program will work to recognize how the intersection of the three domains impacts the fulfillment of the right to health.

The program will disrupt global governance policies and structures that lead to injustice and poor health outcomes. Together, with our global partners, we aim to:

  • Identify and evaluate ways in which current legal and governance systems fail to protect public health.

  • Advance, within a human rights framework, potential interventions in legal and global governance approaches to improve public health, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

  • Increase the application of human rights principles in global health governance.

Recent News and Publications

The Lancet, April 2020: "Centering sexual and reproductive health and justice in the global COVID-19 response" by Kelli Stidham Hall, Goleen Samari, Samantha Garbers, Sara E Casey, Dazon Dixon Diallo, Miriam Orcutt, Rachel T Moresky, Micaela Elvira Martinez, and Terry McGovern.

The Hill, February 2020: "We must repeal the Global Gag Rule to protect girls’ and women’s lives" by Terry McGovern. 

BMJ, October 2019: "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance’? Towards a framework for assessing the health systems impact of the expanded Global Gag Rule" by Marta Schaaf, Emily Maistrellis, Hana Thomas, Bergen Cooper and the GGR Working Group.

The Hill, May 2019: "Sexual Assault Survivors Could Lose Health Access Under Trump" by Terry McGovern 

SIPA Journal of International Affairs, March 2019: "The Global Gag Rule and Closing Civil Society Space for Sexual and Reproductive Rights" by Marta Schaaf, Emily Maistrellis, Terry McGovern, and Latanya Mapp Frett

Sexual Health and Reproductive Matters Journal, March 2019: "Women's Empowerment in Egypt: the reliability of a complex construct" by Goleen Samari

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Jaunuary 2019: "Pharmacy Provision of Medication Abortion in Nepal: Pharmacy Owner and Worker Perspectives" by Goleen Samari et al.

The Lancet, December 2018: "The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health: the health of a world on the move" by Lancet Commissioners, including Terry McGovern

Health and Human Rights Journal, November 2018: "Does Information and Communications Technology Add Value to Citizen-Led Accountability Initiatives in Health? Experiences in India and Guatemala" by Marta Schaaf et al.