Redefining public health leadership in the sustainable development goal era

Health Policy and Planning
Volume 32, Issue 5  June 2017

Redefining public health leadership in the sustainable development goal era
K Srinath Reddy; Manu Raj Mathur; Sagri Negi; Bhargav Krishna
Adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by member states of the United Nations (UN) has set a new agenda for public health action at national and global levels. The changed context calls for a reframing of what constitutes effective leadership in public health, through a construct that reflects the interdependence of leadership at multiple levels across the health system and its partners in other sectors. This is especially important in the context of Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) that are facing complex demographic and epidemiological transitions. The health system needs to exercise leadership that effectively mobilises all its resources for maximising health impact, and channels trans-disciplinary learning into well-coordinated multi-sectoral action on the wider determinants of health. Leadership is essential not only at the level of inspirational individuals who can create collective vision and commitment but also at the level of supportive institutions situated in or aligned to the health system. In turn, the health system as a whole has to exercise leadership that advances public health in the framework of sustainable development. This commentary examines the desirable attributes of effective leadership at each of these levels and explores the nature of their inter-dependence.