Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

6. Public Health Infrastructure and Knowledge

John Powles, Flavio Comim

Overview

This session looks at:

  • the concept of public health infrastructures
  • public health infrastructures through the lens of economics
  • extent to which public health infrastructures may be viewed as GPGH, intermediate GPGH, or access goods
  • actions to consolidate and build public health infrastructures
  • usefulness of the GPGH concept

One of the most striking features of mortality decline during the 20th century was its decreasing dependence on national income levels. As the century progressed, populations were able to attain ever-higher life expectancy at given levels of real income, gaining from 'shifting the curve' relating income to life expectancy, rather than from 'moving along the curve'. Fundamental to 'shifting the curve' has been developments in the production, use and dissemination of public health infrastructures and their associated knowledge, which have acted synergistically to improve health.

The purpose of this session is to examine the extent to which these infrastructures may usefully be seen as either global public goods for health (GPGH) in themselves, or, more indirectly, as 'access goods', which serve to support other GPGH. The session considers the concept of public health infrastructures and notes, in particular, the extent to which such infrastructures tend to be embedded in other social structures, public health infrastructures through the lens of economics, and considers the extent to which they may appropriately and usefully be viewed as (global) public goods, as intermediate goods or as access goods, the action that might be taken to consolidate and build public health infrastructures, and notes the fundamental role played in such endeavours by the creation and transmission of knowledge, and concludes with an assessment of the usefulness of the GPGH concept

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