Is globalization good for your health?

Bull World Health Organ. 2001;79(9):827-33. Epub 2001 Oct 23.


Four points are made about globalization and health. First, economic integration is a powerful force for raising the incomes of poor countries. In the past 20 years several large developing countries have opened up to trade and investment, and they are growing well--faster than the rich countries. Second, there is no tendency for income inequality to increase in countries that open up. The higher growth that accompanies globalization in developing countries generally benefits poor people. Since there is a large literature linking income of the poor to health status, we can be reasonably confident that globalization has indirect positive effects on nutrition, infant mortality and other health issues related to income. Third, economic integration can obviously have adverse health effects as well: the transmission of AIDS through migration and travel is a dramatic recent example. However, both relatively closed and relatively open developing countries have severe AIDS problems. The practical solution lies in health policies, not in policies on economic integration. Likewise, free trade in tobacco will lead to increased smoking unless health-motivated disincentives are put in place. Global integration requires supporting institutions and policies. Fourth, the international architecture can be improved so that it is more beneficial to poor countries. For example, with regard to intellectual property rights, it may be practical for pharmaceutical innovators to choose to have intellectual property rights in either rich country markets or poor country ones, but not both. In this way incentives could be strong for research on diseases in both rich and poor countries.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Commerce
  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Drug Industry / organization & administration
  • Global Health*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Patents as Topic
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution
  • Poverty
  • Public Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations