The United States presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016 was observed by global health commentators as posing dire consequences for the progress made in global health outcomes, governance, and financing. This article shares these concerns, however, we present a more nuanced picture of the global health governance progress narrative pre-Trump. We argue that Trump’s presidency is a displacement activity to which global health’s pre-existing inequalities and problems of global health security, financing, and reproductive health can be attributed. Unfettered access to sexual and reproductive rights, sustained financing of health system strengthening initiatives, affordable medicines and vaccines, and a human security-centred definition of global health security were already problematic shortfalls for global health governance. Trump no doubt exacerbates these concerns, however, to blame his presidency for failings in these areas ignores the issues that have been endemic to global health governance prior to his presidency. Instead of using Trump as a displacement activity, his presidency could be an opportunity to confront dependency on US financing model, the lack of a human-security centred definition of global health security, and the norm of restricting reproductive health. It is such engagement and confrontation with these issues that could see Trump’s presidency as being a catalyst for change rather than displacement as a means of preserving the uncomfortable status quo in global health. We make this argument by focusing on three specific areas of US-led global health governance: reproductive health and the ‘global gag rule’, health financing and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and pandemic preparedness and global health security.
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