Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

GlobaliZation and Health

This is the effect of globalization on the health sector and health outcomes. It refers to the impact on health of growing international trade, improving global communications, increasing flows of goods, services and people, and other manifestations of globalization. These effects can be both direct and indirect.

Examples of direct effects include the impacts on health systems and policies of multilateral trade agreements, such as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which affect the cost and availability of medicines and drugs. Other examples include:

  • Improving communications technologies, which make it easier to alert the relevant authorities to the outbreak of a particular disease and, more broadly, to share information on health issues.
  • Growing trade, tourism and migration, which facilitate the spread of infectious disease and anti-microbial resistance. (Links between trade and the spread of disease date back to the 14th century, when the Black Death followed shipping routes. But the increasing speed and scale of travel, migration and trade create public health challenges and cross-border health risks of a new magnitude.)
  • Global environmental change and the illicit drugs trade, which are global phenomena outside the control of any one government and have an impact on health.

Indirect examples of the impact of globalization on health include those that operate through the national economy, such as the effect of trade liberalization and financial flows on the availability of resources for public expenditure on health.