Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

6. Public Health Infrastructure and Knowledge

John Powles, Flavio Comim


Public health infrastructure as a GPGH

  • 3 main elements of public health infrastructure (see table)

To what extent are public health infrastructures a global public good? The table outlines the three main elements of public health infrastructure (institutions, knowledge and physical infrastructure), and assesses them according to their degree of rivalry, excludability and globality.

These broad elements of public health infrastructure may therefore, at best, be classed as 'impure' public goods - goods that present strong externality effects, but are subject to some degree of excludability or rivalry - most notably here goods that, while often nonrivalrous in consumption, are to some extent excludable and thus 'club goods'.

Further, in terms of the geographical dimension, public health infrastructures are typically limited in the 'sharing' of their benefits by their local context. In addition, the pharmaceutical, medical, institutional and practical knowledge or capabilities involved in the constitution of public health infrastructures seems also to fit a description of 'club' or 'imperfect' public good: they present very high positive externalities but individuals can be excluded from their benefits. A complex picture thus emerges when we think of the connections between public health infrastructures and global public goods.

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