Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

9. Global Public Goods for Health: Use and Limitations

Richard D Smith, David Woodward


GPGH vs non-health GPGs

Interface between GPG for health, and other, non-health-related, GPGs:

  • Health will benefit from other GPG e.g. pollution control, education
  • Health improvements have positive effects on productivity, economic performance and educational performance
  • Need for collective action between international agencies in advancing GPG agenda

There is an interface between GPG for health, and other, non-health-related, GPGs. It is clear that the role of health as a receptor of externalities means that health is likely to be a significant dimension of the benefits of many public goods in other sectors or with other primary objectives. Eg pollution control may be motivated by environmental objectives (e.g. conservation of biodiversity), but is also likely to have health benefits. Similarly, education may be directed in part towards improving overall productivity and economic performance, but health-related behavioural changes are also a significant positive externality, as are the health benefits of the increased incomes associated with education, and the increased supply of health professionals.

Conversely, health improvements may have positive effects that extend beyond health status - in particular, they increase productivity, improve economic performance and improves educational performance.

This suggests that there is a significant degree of synergy between health-related and non-health GPG, so that the costs, benefits and appropriate design of a GPG may depend significantly on which other GPGs are provided.

Clearly then there is a need for collective action between international agencies, as well as between countries, in the provision of health- and non-health-related global public goods. This could be a first major step in advancing the GPG agenda, with international bodies, such as the WHO, United Nations (UN), World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), together establishing the range of possible GPG's of interest, and together seeking to set the agenda for action.

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