Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

9. Global Public Goods for Health: Use and Limitations

Richard D Smith, David Woodward


Conclusion (2)

  • Core feature of GPGH is recognition of interdependency of national health and health systems, and focus on international collective action
  • Provides new rationale for investment by developed countries in developing countries’ health systems
  • Allows application of economic theory and methods to public policy issue of global collective action

The core feature of the GPG concept is recognition of the interdependency of national health and health systems, and its focus on international collective action. From this basis, the GPG concept provides a distinctive framework for analysing the finance and provision of specific (global public) goods to improve health. This provides a new rationale for investment by developed countries in resolving developing countries' health problems and strengthening their health systems, and could facilitate strategic partnerships between developed and developing countries in the production of goods which will enhance global health, and may in some cases contribute to poverty reduction.

The GPG concept is an economic concept. It frames the issues and objectives of public policy to make explicit the inputs needed to produce the final good, quantify the benefits resulting from that good, and examine the collective action problem in achieving a socially optimal production of that good. Key in this examination is identification of the mix of public and private goods required, what domestic and international inputs are required, and what incentives are needed to produce and disseminate the final 'good'. Definition of health-promoting goods along a continuum from pure private to pure public goods, and from purely local to purely global, allows the application of economic theory and methods to the public policy issue of collective action in their production and finance. It may thus help in the development of collective global action in the collective global interest in the field of health.

Overall, the GPG concept has the potential to make a real contribution to the promotion of health at the global level.

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