The seamy side of globalization – health risks

26 April, 2007: Nations, especially world’s top economies which benefit from globalization, must face its disadvantages too.

One of the main harmful effects of globalization is the health hazards especially the people of the developed nations face, according to new report issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The report was released to coincide with World Health Day, celebrated every year on April 7, the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s founding in 1948.

The theme of this year’s World Health Day was ‘Invest in Health, Build a Safer Future.’

There are a growing number of health problems linked to the increasing number of people and goods crossing the borders every day, because diseases cross the borders in people and goods, Ian Simpson, a spokesman for WHO, said in Singapore. Simpson, who was attending a conference in connection with the World Health Day, suggested that countries need international health security to protect themselves.

An international health security report just released by the World Health Organisation lists the following priorities for the agency in 2008:

  • The threat posed by emerging infectious diseases, such as influenza and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
  • The easier spread of disease around the globe because of the movement of people and tainted goods as part of the global economy.
  • The need to manage better international health disasters, such as tsunamis and earthquakes.
  • Awareness of biological and chemical terror threats.
  • The effects of global warming.
  • AIDS

Ian Simpson said there has been a growing risk of spread of diseases during the last decade as global trade has shot up. Along with greater access to commercial goods has come the potential to transport tainted food products, illegal black market goods, as well as diseases carried by people as they travel.

The two events that spurred this year’s theme of the World Health Day are the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the increasing possibility of an international flu pandemic.

* The SARS epidemic started in the fall of 2002 in China, killing nearly 800 people worldwide, most of them in
Asia, before subsiding the following summer. While its spread was prevented, it served as a wake-up call about the emerging threat of such infectious diseases, Ian Simpson said.

These global concerns are very different from the international issues that motivated the founders of the United Nations to establish World Health Organisation after World War II, Simpson said. When WHO was created, like all the other United Nations agencies, people were very concerned about securing world peace and, as part of that, improving the health of people around the world.

That a person could be in Singapore at 11 o’clock in the evening and then be in London the next day was an impossibility in 1948.

As a part of its new focus on cooperation between countries on health threats, WHO has revised its international regulations so that nations can identify health problems as early as possible and seek the help they need from governments, other countries and the private sector. The regulations will be effective from June 15, 2007. stressed.



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