Globalization and Global Health

Globalization and Global Health

Florencia Luna (FLASCO-CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2015070104


Globalization shrinks the world. The world watches on television people dying of hunger or in extreme poverty conditions. Every year, 8 million children die before they reach the age of 5 from preventable diseases. “Exotic illnesses” cease to be so exotic, they can cross borders easily. Ebola, originally an African worry, in 2014 was an international threat. The revolution in information technologies enables us witness the emergence of transnational epistemic communities exhibiting, measuring and explaining health and disease. Presently, the authors are more aware than ever of the health problems of people from far away countries, which decades ago were unknown and distant. The transparency and availability of this information exhibits, in a quasi-obscene way, an unacceptable world. A world that is willing to rescue banks and ignores the worst off – those people whose unlucky birth seals a never ending cycle of misery with almost no possibility of breaking it. This paper address the situation just described by asking: Are these new empiric circumstances reflected in the authors' moral understanding of the issues? How should the world think of global health and their obligations towards people living in deprivation? How can the new empiric possibilities the global world offers be related to the implementation of such obligations? What are some of the challenges to the translation of new obligations to the present world? In addressing these questions, the paper argues that if the world seriously wants to address the obligations towards those in need, even if they are far away from the places they may need to work not only with ideal proposals such as the “new obligations” pointed by Singer and Pogge, but also with different transitional theories and non-ideal strategies in order to solve some of the big challenges the real world impose to theories.
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Traditional, Individual And Institutional Arguments

As noted in the introduction, one problem is posed by the situation of poor people that die from preventable diseases and lack of access to health care, as children or women that die because of unsafe conditions at childbirth. And another situation is the one presented, by the risks entailed by certain transmissible illnesses (Ebola, swine fever,TB). They affect poor people but can also be a threat for other populations.

Different arguments can be given for one or the other case. Regarding poverty and global health the traditional view considers that alleviating poverty belongs to the realm of beneficence, to our feelings and our heart. It is an act of charity. Poor people are in an unfortunate situation but this is not unjust. They merit our sympathy and these nice feelings lead to charity or beneficence. The assumption is that we are not obliged to reduce extreme poverty. Thus, if there is a moral problem here it is our lack of generosity but not the violation of any moral principle or moral duty.

Regarding the second situation, globalization instead may lead to another argument besides charity. We should help these populations in order to prevent these illnesses from impacting other parts of the world (that is, can impact us). The rationale behind it is self-interest. We want to avoid that our countries “import” such threats. Not only self-interest is not even a moral principle -it is the rationale for actions done by convenience-; but also if we follow this argument we will be committed to address only certain illness (mainly those that are transmissible and can cross borders) and not necessarily the most important threats to poor populations.

This second argument does not actually address global health; on the other hand, just appealing to charity is completely subjective. As previously said it depends on our good feelings, there are no moral requirements. The charitable may be praised but those who are not charitable are not condemned. Are there other ways of addressing the problem of global health? Can we think our obligations in this “shrinking world” where we are all interconnected with more stringent moral categories?

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