Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

6. Public Health Infrastructure and Knowledge

John Powles, Flavio Comim

Provision and financing

  • Public health infrastructures are national by nature so national aspect of provision and finance critical to global availability
  • Public health institutions of rich countries and global institutions should help develop public health infra-structures in poor countries
  • Strengthening public health infrastructures in poor countries will yield global public goods of CDC, economic development etc

Public health infrastructures tend to be national by nature. Thus, the national and local aspect of their provision and finance is critical to their global availability and benefit. Although this depends on the tangible dimension of infrastructure (e.g. public health laboratories, number of doctors and sanitation), consideration should not be limited to it. This is primarily because local conditions will influence the absorption and adaptation of knowledge, the less tangible aspect of public health infrastructure.

The national public health institutions of rich countries, and the global public health institutions that are heavily dependent on their material support, provide some help for the development of public health infra-structures in poor countries. The externalities that arise from the strengthening of public health infrastructures in poor countries yield, in turn, global public goods for all, as already noted, in areas such as communicable disease transmission. This is a major justification - and for some, a sufficient one - for support for these endeavours from rich countries.

However, the benefits of global investment in public health infra-structures in poor countries may transcend the sphere of public health issues. It is well known that health is an important element of human capital formation, and that the improvement of health produces a positive effect on the generation of economic growth and productivity. Rich countries face other serious international problems, such as those of illegal immigration and lack of external demand for their goods, which could be partially helped by the provision of a better quality of life for people living in poor countries.