Publications

2015
Edge, J.S. & Hoffman, S.J., 2015. Strengthening National Health Systems’ Capacity to Respond to Future Global Pandemics. In S. Davies & J. Youde, ed. The Politics of Surveillance and Responses to Disease Outbreaks. Surrey, UK. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, pp. 157-179. Full BookAbstract

The capacity to conduct international disease outbreak surveillance and share information about outbreaks quickly has empowered both State and Non-State Actors to take an active role in stopping the spread of disease by generating new technical means to identify potential pandemics through the creation of shared reporting platforms. Despite all the rhetoric about the importance of infectious disease surveillance, the concept itself has received relatively little critical attention from academics, practitioners, and policymakers. This book asks leading contributors in the field to engage with five key issues attached to international disease outbreak surveillance - transparency, local engagement, practical needs, integration, and appeal - to illuminate the political effect of these technologies on those who use surveillance, those who respond to surveillance, and those being monitored.

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Frenk, J. & Hoffman, S.J. ed., 2015. "To Save Humanity": What Matters Most for a Healthy Future, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Full BookAbstract
  • Nearly 100 short, accessible essays on today's most pressing topics, authored by leading global figures from politics, science, academia, and advocacy
  • Contributors include luminaries, former presidents, and celebrated dignitaries from all sectors of society
  • Taken together, can serve as a primer of current world events and a prescriptive to-do list for future policies and interventions

"The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell." -- Dag Hammarskjold, United Nations Secretary-General 1953-1961 The turn of the 21st century was an objective low point in the history of human health: AIDS was scourging Africa, millions of women died each year in child birth, and billions suffered under malnourishment and poverty. In response, the United Nations launched its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an ambitious charter that since 2000 has measurably reduced the worldwide burdens of poverty, hunger, and disease. With the MDGs set to expire in 2015, continued progress on these fronts is anything but certain. In addition to the persisting threats of the 20th century, globalization has sped the development of new threats -pandemics, climate change, chronic disease - that now threaten rich and poor countries equally. "To Save Humanity" is a collection of short, honest essays on what single issue matters most for the future of global health. Authored by the world's leading voices from science, politics, and social advocacy, this collection is both a primer on the major issues of our time and a potential blueprint for post-2015 health and development. This unparalleled collection will provide illuminating and thought-provoking reading for anyone invested in our collective future and well-being.

2014
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. The Black-White Health Gap: Why Black Men Can Expect to Live Five Years Fewer Than White Men. Vox. Article
Flood, C.M. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Ottawa Moves to Strip Power from Top Public Health Scientist. The Toronto Star. Article
Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Canada’s Ebola Visa Ban Puts Us All at Risk in the Long Run. The Toronto Star. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. The Ebola Outbreak’s Real Cause: Letting Industry Drive the Research Agenda. Vox. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. The Evidence on Travel Bans for Diseases like Ebola is Clear: They Don’t Work. Vox. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Four Global Health Issues You’ve Been Ignoring Because of Ebola. Vox. Article
Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Making the International Health Regulations Matter: Promoting Compliance through Effective Dispute Resolution. In S. Rushton & J. Youde, ed. Routledge Handbook on Global Health Security. Oxford. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 239-251. Full BookAbstract

This new Handbook presents an overview of cutting-edge research in the growing field of global health security.

Over the past decade, the study of global health and its interconnection with security has become a prominent and rapidly growing field of research. Ongoing debates question whether health and security should be linked; which (if any) health issues should be treated as security threats; what should be done to address health security threats; and the positive and negative consequences of ‘securitizing’ health. In academic and policy terms, the health security field is a timely and dynamic one and this handbook will be the first work comprehensively to address this agenda.

Bringing together the leading experts and commentators on health security issues from across the world, the volume comprises original and cutting-edge essays addressing the key issues in the field and also highlighting currently neglected avenues for future research. The book intends to provide an accessible yet sophisticated introduction to the key topics and debates and is organised into four key parts:

    • Health Securities: the fundamental conceptual issues, historical links between health and security and the various ways of conceptualising health as a security issue

    • Threats: those health issues which have been most frequently discussed in security terms

    • Responses: the wide range of contemporary security-driven responses to health threats

  • Controversies: the securitization of health, its impact on rights and justice and the potential distortion of the global health agenda

This book will be of great interest to students of global health security, public health, critical security studies, and International Relations in general.

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Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. White Privilege is the Best Medicine. Vox. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Why Travel Bans Will Only Make the Ebola Epidemic Worse. Vox. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. Why We Fail at Stopping Outbreaks like Ebola. Vox . Article
Gordon, J., Røttingen, J.-A. & Hoffman, S.J., 2014. The Meningitis Vaccine Project. Harvard Global Health Case #11, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Hoffman, S.J. & Røttingen, J.-A., 2014. Split WHO in Two: Strengthening Political Decision-Making and Securing Independent Scientific Advice. Public Health Journal , 128 (2) , pp. 188-94. PDFAbstract

The World Health Organization (WHO) has never fulfilled its original mission of simultaneously serving as the world's pre-eminent public health authority and intergovernmental platform for global health negotiations. While WHO's secretariat works hard to fulfill both functions, it is undermined by an institutional design that mixes technical and political mandates. This forces staff to walk uncomfortably along many fine lines: advising but never directing; guiding but never governing; leading but never advocating; evaluating but never judging. The result is mediocrity on both fronts. Instead, WHO should be split in two, separating its technical and political stewardship functions into separate entities, with collaboration in areas of overlap. The Executive Board and secretariat would be bifurcated, with technical units reporting to a Technical Board and political units reporting to a Political Board. Both boards would report to the World Health Assembly where all member states would continue to provide ultimate oversight. Such bold changes can be implemented either by revising WHO's constitution or through simpler mechanisms. Either way, structural governance reforms would need to be accompanied by complementary changes in culture that support strengthened political decision-making and scientific independence. States' inability to act on WHO's institutional design challenges will only lead them and non-state actors to continue bypassing the organization through the creation of new entities as they have done over the last 15 years. The key will be to mobilize those advocates and decision-makers who have the audacity to demand more from WHO and convince member states to elevate their ambitions in current WHO reform efforts. Continued progress in global health depends on it.

2013
Hoffman, S.J. & Røttingen, J.-A., 2013. Dark Sides of the Proposed Framework Convention on Global Health’s Many Virtues: A Systematic Review and Critical Analysis. Health & Human Rights Journal , 15 (1) , pp. 117-134. PDFAbstract

The costs of any proposal for new international law must be fully evaluated and compared with benefits and competing alternatives to ensure adoption will not create more problems than solutions. A systematic review of the research literature was conducted to categorize and assess limitations and unintended negative consequences associated with the proposed Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH). A critical analysis then interpreted these findings using economic, ethical, legal, and political science perspectives. Of the 442 documents retrieved, nine met the inclusion criteria. Collectively, these documents highlighted that an FCGH could duplicate other efforts, lack feasibility, and have questionable impact. The critical analysis reveals that negative consequences can result from the FCGH’s proposed form of international law and proposed functions of influencing national budgets, realizing health rights and resetting global governance for health. These include the direct costs of international law, opportunity costs, reducing political dialogue by legalizing political interactions, petrifying principles that may have only contemporary relevance, imposing foreign values on less powerful countries, forcing externally defined goals on countries, prioritizing individual rights over population-wide well-being, further complicating global governance for health, weakening the World Health Organization (WHO), reducing participation opportunities for non-state actors, and offering sub-optimal solutions for global health challenges. Four options for revising the FCGH proposal are developed to address its weaknesses and strengthen its potential for impact. These include: 1) abandoning international law as the primary commitment mechanism and instead pursuing agreement towards a less formal “framework for global health”; 2) seeking fundamental constitutional reform of WHO to address gaps in global governance for health; 3) mobilizing for a separate political platform that completely bypasses WHO; or 4) narrowing the scope of sought changes to one particular governance issue such as financing for global health needs.

 

Hoffman, S.J. & Belluz, J., 2013. Don't Believe Medicine's Wizards of Oz. The National Post. Article
Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2013. Dr. Oz's Miraculous Medical Advice. Slate Magazine. Article
Hoffman, S.J. & Tan, C., 2013. Following Celebrities' Medical Advice: Meta-Narrative Analysis. British Medical Journal , 347 , pp. f7151. PDFAbstract

Objective: To synthesize what is known about how celebrities influence people’s decisions on health.

Design: Meta-narrative analysis of economics, marketing, psychology, and sociology literatures. 

Data Sources: Systematic searches of electronic databases: BusinessSource Complete (1886-), Communication & Mass Media Complete (1915-), Humanities Abstracts (1984-), ProQuest Political Science (1985-), PsycINFO (1806-), PubMed (1966-), and Sociology Abstracts (1952-). 

Inclusion Criteria: Studies discussing mechanisms of celebrities’ influence on people in any context. 

Results: Economics literature shows that celebrity endorsements act as signals of credibility that differentiate products or ideas from competitors and can catalyze herd behaviour. Marketing studies show that celebrities transfer their desirable attributes to products and use their success to boost their perceived credibility. Psychology shows that people are classically conditioned to react positively to the advice of celebrities, experience cognitive dissonance if they do not, and are influenced by congruencies with their self conceptions. Sociology helps explain the spread of celebrity medical advice as a contagion that diffuses through social networks and people’s desire to acquire celebrities’ social capital. 

Conclusion: The influence of celebrity status is a deeply rooted process that can be harnessed for good or abused for harm. A better understanding of celebrity can empower health professionals to take this phenomenon seriously and use patient encounters to educate the public about sources of health information and their trustworthiness. Public health authorities can use these insights to implement regulations and restrictions on celebrity endorsements and design counter marketing initiatives—perhaps even partnering with celebrities—to discredit bogus medical advice while promoting evidence based practices.

Belluz, J. & Hoffman, S.J., 2013. Katie Couric and the Celebrity Medicine Syndrome. Los Angeles Times. Article
Hoffman, S.J. ed., 2013. Student Voices 5: Advocating for Global Health through Evidence, Insight and Action, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF

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