Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Multimorbidity has been framed as a pressing global health challenge that exposes the limits of systems organised around single diseases. This article seeks to expand and strengthen current thinking around multimorbidity by analysing its construction within the field of global health. We suggest that the significance of multimorbidity lies not only in challenging divisions between disease categories but also in what it reveals about the culture and history of transnational biomedicine. Drawing on social research from sub-Saharan Africa to ground our arguments, we begin by describing the historical processes through which morbidity was made divisible in biomedicine and how the single disease became integral not only to disease control but to the extension of biopolitical power. Multimorbidity, we observe, is hoped to challenge single disease approaches but is assembled from the same problematic, historically-loaded categories that it exposes as breaking down. Next, we highlight the consequences of such classificatory legacies in everyday lives and suggest why frameworks and interventions to integrate care have tended to have limited traction in practice. Finally, we argue that efforts to align priorities and disciplines around a standardised biomedical definition of multimorbidity risks retracing the same steps. We call for transdisciplinary work across the field of global health around a more holistic, reflexive understanding of multimorbidity that foregrounds the culture and history of translocated biomedicine, the intractability of single disease thinking, and its often-adverse consequences in local worlds. We outline key domains within the architecture of global health where transformation is needed, including care delivery, medical training, the organisation of knowledge and expertise, global governance, and financing.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Multimorbidity and Comorbidity

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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