It isn’t difficult to imagine how increases in international commerce and in the movement of people—two defining features of globalization—might influence health. More goods go more places today than at any point in history. More people travel farther, more frequently, and come in contact with more people and goods, than at any point in history.
This increased movement of both goods and people increases opportunities for the spread of disease around the world. And it’s not just goods and services that can travel across oceans and state borders—so can diseases like AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis. The outbreak of BSE, or “mad cow disease,” in several European countries is only one example of how trade can promote the spread of dangerous diseases. Mosquitoes that carry malaria have been found aboard planes thousands of miles from their primary habitats, and infected seafood carrying cholera bacteria have been shipped from Latin America to the United States and Europe.
But just as globalization increases the frequency and ease with which diseases can move around the world, it also can improve access to the medicines, medical information, and training that can help treat or cure these diseases.
Drug companies and governments now have the ability to ship drugs to remote parts of the world affected by outbreaks of disease. Institutions and professionals seeking to put medicines, or other treatments, in the hands of needy people can now make use of the product distribution networks, communications technologies, and transportation technologies that have promoted globalization over the past decade.
For additional information on international trade and “mad cow disease” click here.