Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

Cultural Dimension of Globalization

There are many debates about whether globalization increases or reduces cultural diversity or homogenization. For many, the influences of Western culture through TV, cinema advertising, radio, etc. are substituting for and competing with local and minority cultures.

This process is often blamed for increasing risk behaviours such as smoking and alcohol consumption, increasing social conflict, loss of identity, dislocation and dissatisfaction. Others argue that greater cultural exchange is likely to increase tolerance and understanding, while more access to information can create lifestyle and social changes with health benefits, such as gender equality, greater respect for human rights, less stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS.

For many, the result of global communications is the global village, a term referring to the increased contact between cultures, identities and views across national boundaries that results from the application of modern communications. This represents a positive view of globalization in which societies come closer together and develop shared values and interests.

Global communications play an extremely important role in the cultural dimensions of globalization. The term refers to the use of new information communication technologies such as the Internet, mobile phones, e-mail, and satellite TV. These technologies are becoming cheaper and more widely available. The increasing ease and speed of global communication has both direct and indirect influences on health. For example, global advertising campaigns may increase levels of tobacco use but, on the positive side, the Internet democratizes access to information, making it easier for health professionals to access and share knowledge, information, and ideas on health.

Despite advances in global communications, a massive “information gap” remains between developed and developing countries. Over 70% of Africans will not make a telephone call in their lifetime, nor use the Internet. However, radio broadcasts are thought to reach 70% of all Africans. Ownership and influence over the content of communications is important. It should also be noted that, while culture is affected by TV and cinema, a society's culture can be expressed and influenced in many different ways. All that can be said with any certainty is that the integration of global markets and communication channels leads to a much higher level of interaction. Whether this increases or decreases homogenization and risk behaviour remains to be seen.