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Effects of Globalization on Health Inequalities

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Giddens (1990) defined globalization as a decoupling of space and time. He argued that it is possible to exchange information and culture across the World at the same time with instant communication. Likewise, globalization is also defined by Lubbers (1998) as a geographical distance that becomes smaller by establishing and maintaining cross-border economic, political, and socio-cultural relations (Lubbers 1998). Many see globalization as economic facts primarily involving the increasing interaction or integration of national economic systems through the growth of international trade, investment, and capital flow. However, as part of globalization’s occurrence, one can also point to a rapid increase in cross-border social, cultural, and technological exchange (Giddens 1990). Lee (2000) explains that globalization is an unavoidable and primarily gentle process of global economic integration, in which countries increasingly drop border restrictions on the flow of capital, goods, and services. He further acknowledged that risks are a more rapid spread of disease through tourism and the speedier and more massive and regular movement of goods and people. He noted that the dangers of globalization processes can be managed and are more than offset by benefits in the dissemination of new ideas, technologies, and steady global economic growth (Lee 2000). While Dowler (2007) defines health inequalities as the difference in health experience between different groups of people, some groups of people experience poorer health than most people. This, he said, is generally due to circumstances of life, such as living in poverty, low or fixed income, inadequate housing, having little opportunities for social activities, lack of community interaction, and discrimination due to gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or disability (Dowler, 2007). This paper will present a literature review on globalization and its effects on health inequalities. The main objective is to provide a framework to understand how globalization accelerates current changes in our lifestyles, the free movement of people traveling (Tourism) about the rapid spread of infectious diseases, noticeably SARS. Also, the estimate shows increasing gaps between the rich and poor that emerged in the various pieces of literature. Research shows that the globalization process, as it is defined by Lee (2000) and others, that globalization is responsible for the accelerated free movement of people. WHO (2003) estimated that more than two million travelers cross international borders daily. This includes not only economic migrants, refugees, but also tourism. It is suggested that a traveler infected with SARS could easily be transported across the globe six times within the incubation period of this deadly disease (WHO, 2003). This research will analyze this statement in detail and provide points for future research needs, based on the current globalization policy debates and around the spread of diseases. It will also make a case study of SARS to enrich the proposal.

Effects of Globalization on Health Inequalities

Research Question

Does globalization contribute to health inequality?


Analyzing and discussing where, when and how globalization impacts or accelerates health disparity


  1. To see what has and has not been investigated about globalization and how does it affect health inequality.
  2. To identify potential relationships between the concepts and to identify researchable needs in the area.
  3. To develop an understanding of how free movement of people such as tourism has changed cultures/lifestyles, through the process of globalization
  4. To demonstrate knowledge of the history of the spread of infectious diseases and the globalization of trade and investments.
  5. To discover how my research project can be related to the work of others.

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Literature Review

I will conduct my research, from the existing large volume of information about the process of globalization and its effect on health inequalities. I will also look at available information on the internet, books, and journals about the process of globalization and its impact on health inequality. Information gathered shall be used to find out what other researchers have done about the concept of globalization and its relation to health inequality. Also, to determine the relationship between the two terms globalization and health inequalities.

Wilson (1995), on the other hand, stated that travel is one form of spreading diseases. He suggested that the movement of humans has been the driving force for spreading infectious diseases throughout recorded history, and this he said will continue to form the prevalence and spread of infections in cross-borders and populations. He said the current volume, speed, and reach of travel are unprecedented. Today’s massive human and material movement sets the stage for the mixing at rates and in previously unknown combinations of various genetic pools. Researchers conclude that natural environmental changes, climate change, technology, land use, human behavior, Tend people come together to encourage the rapid spread of infectious diseases caused by a wide variety of species in both humans and plants and animals (Wilson, 1995).Furthermore, this research will critically examine this available information or sources that relate to my research question, which asks whether Globalization contributes to health inequality. It will also demonstrate how it Supports the topic or the existing knowledge in the area, as well as Highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and any omissions of the existing Literature in the area. This will be achieved by criticizing research and then evaluate and demonstrate my viewpoint or interpretation of the checked literature on the matter.

The review will include up to date references and be based on as broad and thorough research of sources as possible. A key issue will be whether the people understand the relationship between the globalization and health inequalities, and how does the globalization exacerbate health inequalities from various literature viewpoint. Similarly, I will also attempt to investigate whether research conducted in the area has been objective and has presented any evidence which might contradict other research finding and ideas, about the existing issues of health inequalities and rapid spread of diseases across borders.


The method of the research will be based on a literature review of investigating what has been or has not been done in the area and how should my piece of research will fit into various examinations already done. Books, journal articles, websites, political and current affairs programmers about the topic will be used to aid the gathering of information regarding the feature of globalization and its effects on health inequalities. To my knowledge, there is a lot of research around globalization and health inequalities. Still, the area regarding the general public awareness of the relationship between globalization and health inequalities requires more research. I believe the overall understanding of the concept of globalization and its effect on health inequalities is to depend on how well people understand the two terms. Research shows that current trade liberalization policies have led to an increase in poverty and health inequality, which is said to have undermined principles of traditional values, with a large negative effect on the most disadvantaged people. The World Bank report on global economic outlook (2000) stated that the number of people living on less than $2 per day has risen by almost 50% since 1980 to 2.8 billion, which is estimated to be nearly half the World’s population. The report further shows that this number will continue to increase if income levels between the rich and poor are not taken into account; In a similar vein, (Collins 2003) explain how culture is becoming globalized. Global communication, global mobility, and cross-cultural interaction are all said to influence cultural norms and values and social equity. Collins (2003) argues that globalized cultures may lead to an increasing trend towards social exclusion and social inequity. This research proposal will investigate information from this website and other related articles to find out how globalization can be a factor that affects cultural norms to the point of bringing social barriers to employment opportunities or access to material sources and access to health care services.

The methodology of the research proposal will include analyzing and discussing different information gathered, from which I will conclude where and why or how the globalization process accelerates health inequality and the spread of infectious diseases, notably the spread of SARS. This will be done through a literature review by investigating various researcher’s views in regards to globalization and its effect on health inequalities. On the aspect of trade liberalization and privatization policy, there are a lot of criticisms that emerged in various pieces of literature cited (Giddens, 1990. Lubbers, 1998. Lee, 2000. Wayne (2002). Most of it shows the growing evidence of the widening gaps in income distributions between the rich and the poor and will explain how the differences of income level could undermine the public’s equal access to health services, with the increasing level of privatization of indigenous health services providers. Wayne (2006) explains how the movement of people from one region to another could be a means of accelerating the spread of diseases such as the deadly impact of the SARS epidemic. This is confirmed by WHO (2003) WHO stated that in less than a month, SARS reached about 31 countries. This rapid spread of diseases across countries is said to be associated with the globalization of trade and the industrialization of animal husbandry. I Will evaluate, discuss, and analyze how the current global exchange of people, products, plants, animals, technology, and ideas affect the spread of diseases and relate this to what Wayne (2006) suggests. “The concept of human development through the expansion of trade in goods and services with a notion of the unified market as the ultimate goal, despite the danger it holds” (Wayne 2006, p10-11)


This proposal would review the gathered information and age the perception of people on the definition of globalization and how it affects health inequality and then apply the finding to my research query. For example, traveling (tourism) in connection with the spread of infectious diseases, particularly SARS and growing globalized cultures, is linked to access to health care facilities for people. To strengthen the points, I will relate my results to the current trade liberalization and privatization policies as outlined above and compare them to examples of modern public health policies in one developed World and a developing country policy and illustrate how this could weaken the public access to quality health services. I also will critically evaluate various research arguments on the topic and direct my arguments to identify the gaps and future needs for research in the area. Wayne (2006) stated that the process of globalization made us believe that human development is linked to the market growth with the expansion of trade in goods and services between countries, What he suggests is the main factor which will bring about a more fair, more prosperous planet. The argument goes, global integration and cross-cultural understanding all result in a borderless world where narrow potential interest is put aside in a new pact of share universal humanity. This is a compelling vision, as (Wayne 2006) notes.

“We live in a World of enormous wealth and great opportunities. There are now more people living longer, healthier, more productive lives than at any given time in human history and much of that is due to the extraordinary capacity of industrial capitalism to produce the goods”.

He noted this with a notion that, instead of helping build a better world for all, but the system of free-market is eroding both democracy and equity. Where the gaps between rich and poor continue to increase, and he explained that the decision-making powers are concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, local cultures are beginning to be wiped out, biological diversity about destroyed, regional tensions are increasing, and the stage of the environment is nearing the point of collapse (Wayne 2006).


I will review and evaluate the growing evidence of the widening inequalities between the rich and poor and differences in income distribution. I will then indicate how these are linked to differences in the quality of health services or lack of access to the services at all. This proposal will evaluate whether this might be associated with the processes of globalization through trade liberalization, increasing concentrations of the ownership of global wealth in the hands of few corporate bodies, and free movement of people from one region to another as the causes of newly emerged diseases, and or the close interactions of human to animals such as the case of SARS.

The big question of whether growing in inequality is a result of globalization or whether globalization has stopped it from even worsening these remains unclear. There is no doubt that the globalization of the world economy has created significant wealth and knowledge. Yet it is far less clear whether that new wealth has gone to the poor who need it most, or whether globalization is responsible for increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. These questions will be answered by reviewing various literature to examine whether the growing level of health inequalities are being influenced by globalization processes.

  • The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework Available at www. Globalization and health.com/content. Accessed 20/03/08
  • Hand H (2003) SARS Available at WHO website www.who.int/csr/sars/en/). Accessed:20/03/08
  • Travel and the emergence of infectious diseases. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/index.html. Accessed 21/03/08
  • Collins T: (2003) Globalisation, global health and access to healthcare; Int. J Health Plann Manage, 18:97-104.
  • Lee K (1999) Globalisation, communicable disease and equity, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London
  • Increasing gap in health inequalities; Available at http://www.nwph.net/nwpho/inequalities/health_wealth_3intro_(2).pdf. Accessed 21/07/08
  • Kelley Lee & Jeff Collin (2005) Global change and Health
  • Hilary Graham (2001) Understanding health inequalities Buckingham, Open University press
  • Daulaire N (1999) Globalisation and Health – Issue Papers, Lancet (2000) and also (2000a) A growing poverty gap: rising health inequalities: Globalisation and health Development 42: 4; 22 – 24:
  • Wayne, E. (2006) No-Nonsense guide to globalization, Co-edited  by the new international magazine, also available at www. Newwint.org


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