Developing countries are beset with health crises to a greater extent than their more developed counterparts. The lack of resources and the presence of numerous demanding needs causes the insufficient allocation of such resources for the addressing of health issues. In other countries, there is simply no technology to produce the necessary cures for the bigger diseases besetting their populations. Whereas in more developed countries with greater storehouse of resources there is a greater capacity to address health problems, particularly with a more developed technological platform to work from.
Not only this, but developing countries have a marked decline in addressing sanitation concerns thus making for environments more prone to diseases caused by bacteria, worms, and viruses.1 With more hygienic living conditions, this is not the observed case in developing countries. Thus, a combination of non-hygienic conditions and low access to healthcare creates atmospheres for developing nations making them more prone to experiencing severe health problems.
The first concern regarding health problems in developing countries is the possibility of a disease to develop which is easily transmittable from person to person. The fear of infectious diseases, particularly the fear of such diseases causing a pandemic, has had significant impact on the manner in which the global community addresses global health problems.
International agencies have come up with surveillance systems to enable member countries to report incidents of infectious diseases and to better equip non-affected nations against contamination.2 The mechanism of report requires member nations to define the nature and extent of infection of the disease. This is not particularly attractive to infected nations as the reporting of diseases would adversely affect the economy of the said country. With a fear of infection, foreign investors would lower their rates of importation. This would serve to lower the economic growth of the said country. Not only this, but tourists would be fearful of visiting said foreign country and income from such investments would also decline. The stigma against the affected country would translate to a decline in the status of their economy.
It is in this regard that health issues of individual nations affect the global view on health. The slightest change in the ability of individual countries to provide basic resources or to contribute to the global economy would affect all other countries as a result of global interconnectedness.
3 The dependence of nations, one to the other, cannot sustain the devolution of production of goods in any one nation. Apart from moral responsibilities, this is the weightiest argument to a global perspective on health promotion. The global market favors the ensuring of wealthier nations that less affluent nations will be able to participate fully in the global trade of goods.
What is not considered in this model are non-infectious diseases plaguing the developing countries around the globe. There is little incentive for global agencies to address such problems since there is no showing that the same would affect citizens of foreign nations. Although the argument for providing aid for the same due to global trade considerations still stands, there is little to no initiative from private drug companies. The primary aim of such companies being profit, they are not drawn by the clamor for lower prices required in developing countries.
Thus, the trend remains for drug companies to produce drugs and cures that will answer the needs of developed countries whom they can charge higher prices for the products and services they offer. Diseases plaguing impoverished nations such as malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and the like are given little attention although they may present greater threats than hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. This is an unfortunate as developed nations should take it upon themselves to promote health in developing nations as well.
The international community would benefit to a greater extent with the improvement of all component nations. The nations in the international community should not only consider giving aid to developing nations when the diseases may spread into their own localities but even so when the diseases may be contained domestically. The interest then should not be for global regulation of domestic plagues but it should be for international interest in holistic global health.
Although drug companies refuse to focus on answering the needs of the major diseases in impoverished nations this is not to say that no organized action is being undertaken for the same. Certainly there are individuals and groups who recognize the importance of promoting health on a global scale.
The World Health Organization, for example has collaborated with large pharmaceutical companies in order to bring drugs for the cure of prevalent diseases into levels of access for developing nations.4 The proposed plan is to decrease drug prices for developing nations, if the free delivery of the same is not probable, by increasing prices in affluent countries. Such a scheme would permit the subsidization of drugs by developed countries. There would thus be an equitable division of required resources in order to gain access of available cures in the market.
There has also been an observed trend in scientific laboratories. Scientists capable of performing research investigating cures for diseases of poverty have shown greater inclination for the same. Funding may be an issue in the matter however, more and more charities are focusing on the aim of global health and even domestic governments are supporting the bid for finding cures for large health issues.
Not only this, but movements have been made to have pharmaceutical companies share the process of production if the matter of marketing drugs at a no-profit price is not possible. Local governments or corporations could then work on producing their own drugs using the process and information shared by foreign corporations. These matters are currently being pushed by advocates worldwide.
However, the international community still has much ground to cover. The problem of international health is still a major issue receiving small priority in the global scale. The problem of politicking and bureaucracy hinders advances that could be made in this field. Thus, in order to more aptly answer the problem, local policies should first be reshaped and made to realize the importance of health in the governmental platform. Furthermore, local governments should not limit themselves to addressing only their own separate needs. Garrett aptly captures the issue:
Tactically, all aspects of prevention and treatment should be part of an integrated effort, drawing from countries’ finite pools of health talent to tackle all monsters at once, rather than dueling separately with individual dragons. 5
Given limited resources, in the international sense as well as in the domestic, the pooling of these same resources is the best solution to the problem of both global and local health. The vision of individual nations should be enhanced to not only address their own problems but they should start to realize the relevance in investing in a global perspective in answering health issues. Certainly, with a view of the same, advances will be made not only for short term goals of fending off singular diseases in certain nations but more so the long term goal of eradicating debilitating diseases that could potentially reappear in similar conditions or in evolved forms.
The answer then is to prepare internationally for the problem of global health as the strengthening of individual platforms in individual nations will address the root issue of recurring conditions. This will serve not only to strengthen the global health system but even other sectors of concern such as trade and global relations as more and more countries invest in programs reflecting amity and gratuity.
Check, Erika,“Quest for the Cure,” Foreign Policy, (2006): 28-36.
Garrett, Laurie, “The Challenge of Global Health,” Foreign Affairs 86(1), (2007): 14-38.
Naim, Moises and Brundtland, Gro Harlem, “The FP Interview: The Global War for Public Health,” Foreign Policy 128, (2002): 24-36.
Osterholm, Michael T., “Unprepared for a Pandemic,” Foreign Affairs 86(2), (2007): 47-57.
Zacher, Mark W., “Global Epidemiological Surveillance,” in Inge Kaw, Isabelle Grunberg, and Marc A. Stern, “Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century (eds.),” (1999), NY: UNAP.