Professor L. Briggs
The Effects of Globalization on International Health Over the Past Century Over the last 100 years globalization has had both positive and negative effects on global health and health care. We are irrevocably interconnected and anything that is one country’s concern becomes the one concern of all. The world population has exploded, we live longer, but we are not necessarily healthier. Globalization has created challenges but also opportunities in combating diseases. Some of the most drastic changes have taken place during the last 50 years, and a few main factors to affect international health have been industrialization and global cooperation, climate and environmental changes, and changes in technology.
Industrialization and global cooperation
At the beginning of the 20th century, the currently developed countries’ economies grew rapidly. With the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars, people became more mobile and cheaper, faster travel helped infectious diseases to spread faster. However, with the invention of penicillin in 1928, many previously deadly diseases became curable. Hans Rosling’s TED talk New insights on poverty delivers a good overview of the change international health has gone through over time. His graphs show over a century of data on how the improved global economy and GDP correlates to increasing life expectancy and decreasing child mortality. What is also clear is that while the developed countries moved ahead, and his chart shows varying degrees of improved health in most nations, the developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were left behind. When the United Nations was formed in 1945 it was decided that there was a need for a global health organization within the UN. Consequently, the World Health Organization was established in 1948, and it has been on the
forefront as a unifying entity and coordinator for improving international health. When it was established, the top priorities were “malaria, women’s and children’s health, tuberculosis, venereal disease, nutrition and environmental sanitation” (Working for Health, 4). Today, close to 8000 people from more than 150 countries work for the WHO to improve people’s health globally. Over the last 60 years, the WHO has set international standards for disease classification and introduced immunization programs. In his TED talk My wish: Help me stop pandemics, Dr. Larry Brilliant tells of how in the 1970s, with the help of 150 000 volunteers, they made over 1 billion house calls in India to identify the last remaining cases of smallpox. By 1979, smallpox was finally the first, and so far the only, infectious disease to be completely eradicated. Because of lack of reliable data, the volunteers depended on early detection and early response, which is still his mantra today. In a globalized world, these are the most important calls for action, early warning systems, in order to stop fast moving epidemics and new infectious diseases. In 1988, the WHO launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and together with global partners, the number of polio cases has been reduced by 99%.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals were developed in 2000. It was an agreement between heads of states to “monitor progress towards national and international targets, to inform policies and development strategies, and to spur the international community into action” in order to reduce world poverty by 2015. Three of the goals were directly related to health: Goal 4: Reduce child mortality, Goal 5: Improve maternal health, and Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (OECD Counting Down Poverty, 6). Unfortunately, it does not seem like the progress in on target. With globalization, the ease with which people and goods travel, viruses such as the AIDS/HIV as well as SARS has been able to spread quickly between continents. But these are also examples of how far we as a...
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