In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Blogs and Content Aggregators
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Historical Perspectives on Health, Disease, and Health Policy
  • Politics of Noncommunicable Diseases
  • Globalization, Gender, and Health
  • Social Determinants of Health and Globalization
  • Ethics of Global Health Crises
  • Health and Human Rights

Political Science Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
Ted Schrecker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0068


The term “globalization” is itself contested terrain. This article recognizes the plurality of legitimate definitions that have in common a focus on economic, political, and social processes that operate across national borders. The recent multiplication of such processes is not in dispute. Neither is the “globalization” of health concerns as diverse as the transmission of communicable disease—the longest-standing concern—and the supply of health professionals as they migrate across national borders. The 2008 financial crisis has added to the list. It also reminds us that health is influenced by factors many of which lie entirely outside the domain of the health care system—hardly a new observation, but one that bears repeating. The study of globalization and health is unavoidably transdisciplinary, as reflected in the range of disciplines from which the sources in this bibliography are drawn. If there is a single guiding principle behind their selection, beyond emphasizing a diversity of disciplinary and methodological orientations, it is the contribution that each cited reference can make to understanding that global health issues must be analyzed with reference to distributions of power and resources that affect opportunities to live a healthy life, and that those distributions are closely connected to global economic and geopolitical processes.

General Overviews

Each of these overviews is distinctive and should be in the library of all serious researchers. None of the books is a conventional academic volume. Farmer 2003, written by the cofounder of the civil society organization Partners in Health; People’s Health Movement, et al. 2008; and Kim, et al. 2000 all have an activist orientation. (In April 2012, co-editor J. Y. Kim was appointed president of the World Bank.) In Garrett 2000, more than 150 pages of endnotes provide ample documentation to support the author’s argument about the urgency of taking public health more seriously in a global frame of reference. Inoue and Drori 2006 and Zielinski Gutiérrez and Kendall 2000 provide complementary introductions to global health politics, with the first being organized around chronology and institutions and the second around key concepts and debates. Although not about globalization per se, Stuckler and Basu 2013 is an indispensable assessment of policy responses to the globalization-related financial crisis of 2008.

  • Farmer, Paul. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

    Making explicit reference to social determinants of health (before the term was popularized by a WHO commission), physician and anthropologist Farmer combines insights from extensive field experience in Haiti, southern Mexico, and Russia with a commitment to human rights and a critique of the “war on the poor” that he views as intrinsic to contemporary globalization.

  • Garrett, Laurie. Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health. New York: Hyperion, 2000.

    Elaborates on the interaction of poverty and politics that contributes to resurgence of infectious diseases, and offers a provocative comparison of the collapse of public health in the former Soviet Union and the very different, but comparably serious, situation of public health in the United States at the end of the Reagan era. A concluding chapter introduces the threat of bioterrorism.

  • Inoue, Keiko, and Gili S. Drori. “The Global Institutionalization of Health as a Social Concern: Organizational and Discursive Trends.” International Sociology 21 (2006): 199–219.

    DOI: 10.1177/0268580906061376

    The authors provide an historical overview of the development of a “global organizational field of health,” starting in the 17th century but accelerating post-1870. They argue for periodization in terms of successive organizational themes: charity, professionalism, health and development, and human rights. Usefully read in conjunction with some sources in the section on Globalizing Health Governance. Reprinted in Labonté, et al. 2011 (cited under Reference Works).

  • Kim, Jim Yong, Joyce V. Millen, Alex Irwin, and John Gershman, eds. Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000.

    A volume produced by a Massachusetts-based group of researchers and activists that situates case studies of health crises (from Haiti, sub-Saharan Africa, Peru, Mexico, India, and Russia) in a normative framework explicitly critical of neoliberal globalization, transnational corporations, and US policy. Its scope and depth have yet to be replicated in a single volume.

  • People’s Health Movement, Medact, and Global Equity Gauge Alliance. Global Health Watch 2: An Alternative World Health Report. London: Zed Books, 2008.

    The second of three such reports produced by a coalition of civil society organizations, all available for free online, this one is especially useful as an inventory of major global health issues and description of the role of major actors like the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Gates Foundation, and transnational corporations.

  • Stuckler, David, and Sanjay Basu. The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills. London: Allen Lane, 2013.

    Critique of the austerity measures that followed the financial crisis of 2008, and are often portrayed as unavoidable. Authors argue that this was not the case and that “in countries where austerity is ascendant, we’re undergoing a massive and untested experiment on human health, and left to count the dead” (p. xxi). Extensively documented with reference to authors’ own epidemiological studies.

  • Zielinski Gutiérrez, Emily C., and Carl Kendall. “The Globalization of Health and Disease: The Health Transition and Global Change.” In The Handbook of Social Studies in Health & Medicine. Edited by Gary L. Albrecht, Ray Fitzpatrick, and Susan C. Scrimshaw, 84–99. London: SAGE, 2000.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781848608412

    A succinct description of “the globalization of disease,” connecting urbanization and epidemiological transition (from communicable to noncommunicable diseases as causes of illness and death) with global-scale economic and political processes, including the increased volume and reduced cost of transportation and communication. Useful for teaching purposes in various courses where opportunity for more in-depth exploration of the globalization-health nexus is limited.

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