Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

1. Global Public Goods and Health: concepts and issues

David Woodward, Richard D Smith

Access goods

  • Private goodsare often required to access public goods
  • This restricts the scope of the benefits from public goods and may lead to perverse targeting
  • To secure provision of some public goods, required access goods may thus be considered as if they were public goods

Many public goods are only non-excludable to those who have the requisite private goods to access them. For example, a television is required to access broadcasts. Such private goods are here termed ‘access goods’.
The requirement of access goods restricts the scope of the benefits of public goods. This not only reduces the overall benefits (making the balance between costs and benefits less favourable), but may also lead to perverse targeting: those who have access goods are likely to be the better off, so that the benefits of providing public goods will tend to be skewed away from the poor.
The non-rival nature of public goods means that it is desirable to increase coverage. It may therefore be that the provision of some private goods is considered as a part of the ‘package’ of securing the wider consumption of the public good. In this case these private goods may be considered as if they were public goods for analytical and policy purposed.
Access goods are also an important area of synergy, as essentially the same access goods may be required for a range of public goods. For example, public health infrastructure constitutes an access good for a range of public goods. This represents a strong case for provision of free health services as public good at the national level.