The Globalization of Health CareDavid E. Bloom | Finance and Development
Health threats have become increasingly global in modern times. That’s not to say that epidemics have respected national borders in the past, The plague in the Middle Ages and Spanish flu at the beginning of the 20th century are strong evidence of this. However, the modern day networks of international trade are making it even easier for diseases to spread from continent to continent.
Global health care has been successful in many respects; illnesses like smallpox, SARS and polio have been brought under control, tobacco use has been reduced and the development of affordable immunizations has advanced. On the other hand, millions of people still have no access to clean water and sanitation. Developing countries suffer increasingly from a “brain drain” of their trained health workers who move to the developed world, where they can earn higher wages. Furthermore, there continues to be large disparities in population health status, in the collection and distribution of reliable information and in the fixing of common health standards.
In view of this and of imminent threats, like the spread of bird flu, a better global approach to health care is increasingly important. The first priority should be for all countries to possess adequate resources to achieve the health related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the very least. Increasing the responsibility and finances of the World Health Organization (WHO) would enable the organization to monitor health standards and control the spread of disease. Furthermore, all international health care institutions need to support each other’s interests and work in closer cooperation. The creation of global standards for avoiding public health crises, for example, would help control diseases like HIV/AIDS. The immunodeficiency syndrome killed around 2.1 million people in 2007 alone.
The global health system has largely been shaped by new players from the private sector, whose funding accounts for nearly one-fourth of all development aid for health. The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, for example, allocates nearly 65% of all private aid. The integration of the private sector and civil society in all aspects of health care is a good way of coordinating local and global efforts and improving global health care.
The summary above was prepared by Natasha Doff of the Atlantic Community editorial team from “Governing Global Health” published in Finance and Development in December 2007