Navigating Global Prosperity And Challenges

Is globalization and international trading good or bad for your health?

Health and trade are two important components of the continued prosperity and development of different nations across the world especially with the current age where globalization has made access to information, products and services easier and possible for every individual regardless of their location within the world. Globalization also means that individuals can travel or visit various countries and places for conducting trade or excursions or even vacations creating the possibility of transferring exotic diseases, infections and illnesses back to their home countries thereby making health a factor that affects trade and vice versa.

Trade and Health

The conditions in which people live and work in, as well as the different products and services they consume regardless of their origin or nature greatly affects the individual’s opportunities and abilities to lead a healthy life. The continued cross border flow of people to do trade as well as products and services, regardless of whether they are health related or not affects health of individuals through a wide range of ways as highlighted by WHO (2015). These outline the health impacts of trade and include:


The advertisement as well as trading of products and services that is unhealthy. This may lead to unhealthy lifestyles of the individuals within these countries and thereby substantially undermine their health status. International trade means a country can dispose of expired medicine, poor quality medical equipments as well as other toxic products to developing countries that lack these products and are in desperate need for them. As such the health of the individuals living in these countries is likely to be highly compromised. Ruxin (2010) highlights that among the greatest challenge that developing countries face is lack of adequate food substances for their population. Given the ease with which food substances can be traded, dumping of low quality and sometimes poisoned food substances is possible as shown by the example of low quality processed food stuff such as cooking oil and sugar exported to Kenya as reported these previous months by (Mosoku and Ombati, 2018). While this may be good as poor individuals get to access food cheaply, their health is highly deteriorated by these low quality food stuff overtime.

Another health impact of trade may arise due to the recent increased trade in services among different countries. This means that health professionals and doctors can be transferred or individually move to practice in different countries while in the pursuit of high income, one of the social determinants of health Barlow et al. (2017). The migration of doctors especially from developing countries is likely to lead to a shortage of doctors and health professionals in these countries; subsequently the health of individuals in the country is therefore highly implicated.

Another effect of increased international trade includes frequent travelling of individuals to different countries over short periods of time. Voon (2015) highlights that despite the screening provided for migrating individuals to different countries; trade has heightened the risk of individuals to transfer diseases and infections across borders. This highly compromises the public health situation of a particular country or region.

In addition, migration of individuals to different countries and regions causes overpopulation within the country. This increases the rate of the spread of airborne and communicable diseases. For instance as a result of globalization, India opened its borders to Foreign Direct Investment leading to the influx of people in New Delhi which subsequently became the most populated City in the World. As a result high levels of infections of disease such as Asthma, Lung infections and Cancer were reported. The high population and development of Multi National Enterprises and increased Industrialization due to globalization also led to pollution of water and Air which further increased the spread of waterborne disease leading to high mortality and morbidity rates within India.

Social Determinants of Health in a Globalized Trading Environment

Some of the determinants of health that can be influenced by trading as highlighted by Labonte and Schrecker (2007) include: Income, inequality, economic insecurity and Unhealthy Diets. Higher income means greater access to clean water quality and healthy food as well as quality medical attention which means good health. While globalization enhances economic development of countries leading to better Jobs and therefore higher income due to urbanization and rapid advancements of the Economy, eventually it also attracts more people which lead to over population which has a negative impact on health.

High levels of inequality is associated with less healthy population as individuals find it hard to access quality medical equipment and food leading to depression and poor health. Economic insecurity brought about by rapid urbanization as a result of globalization affects the ability of individuals to settle of a single kind of job and as such is constantly switching jobs and economic activities; this is highly likely to cause stress and poor health on individuals (Blouin et al., 2009).

World Trade Agreement as well as other international free trade agreements could affect these determinants of health in both positive and negative ways thereby either enhance the health status of the country or region or worsen it. For instance the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which forbids breaking of Pharmaceutical patents. This agreement has been able to restrict access of generic medicine to developing countries and therefore helps to protect and maintain their health. However, the downside is that these restrictions make drugs particularly costly and difficult to access for individuals without insurance (PHAST, 2017).

While some of the agreements may lead to increased products and services such as medicine food and doctors, subsequently enhancing the growth of an economy which affects all the determinants positively and implies an improvement in the health status of the region’s population, some of them may also open up a region to the vulnerability of negative trade effects, migration of doctors out of the region, dumping of poor quality products which generally dictate a poor economy. Subsequently the population is strained with poor income for working individuals, inequality in social services, economic insecurity as well as unhealthy diets which generally lead to a poor health economy.

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  • Barlow P., McKee M., Basu S. and Stuckler D. (2017). The Health Impact of Trade and Investment Agreements. Retrieved from
  • Blouin, C. et al. (2009) Trade and social determinants of health. Lancet 373, 502-07
  • Labonté, R. et al. (2009) Trade and Health. In Kay, A. & Williams, O.D. Global Health Governance: Crisis, Institutions and Political Economy, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, New York. Chapter 8, 182-208
  • Mosoku G. and Ombati C. (2018). Detectives Save Kenyans from one Million Bags of Toxic Rice. Retrieved from
  • PHAST (2017). Health Effects of International Trade. Retrieved from
  • Ruxin J. (2010). Is International Trade Impacting Health: Challenges for this Decade? AMA Journal of Ethics, 12(3), 213-217
  • Voon T. (2015). Evidentiary challenges for public health regulation in international trade and investment Law. J Int Econ Law. 18:795–826.
  • World Health Organization (2015). Trade and Health: Toeards Building a National Strategy. Retrieved from

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