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The world has turned into a global village that is characterised by the evident globalisation of aspects of daily living such as trade, disease, communication, transport, and travel. Global health has also matured, with health being a key factor in the globalisation arena. The health sector has also become pleural, with many sectors and individuals being involved directly and indirectly in the same.
One of the organisations that play a major role in the development of global health policies and their implementation is the World Health Organisation. The organisation has an extensive role in the monitoring of health and diseases together with their governance. It also enacts norms in the health sector internationally besides acting as a coordinator for the various local and international actors to uphold the expected norms.
The World Health Organisation therefore has a special role in globalisation by ensuring worldwide harmonisation of health services and standards. It remains the single largest health body in the world with branches in almost all the world nations and operations on various health fields. It also works in consent with other global bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and other UN bodies to facilitate health delivery.
The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the role of the World Health Organisation in globalisation. Does the organisation have a role in the facilitation of globalisation? If so, what role does it have? The question is one of the issues that the essay will target to investigate. The WHO has been in existence for decades now. The essay will also evaluate the major developments in the health sector in relation to globalisation since the inception of the WHO.
The essay is divided into four main sections. An evaluation of globalisation and health will be presented in the first section. The second section will address the historical aspects of the WHO. The third section will then follow with an evaluation of the roles of the WHO. The fourth section will address the challenges that the organisation faces together with the global aspect of the WHO.
Globalisation and Health
Health is no longer a confine for a single organisation or nation, but rather a global responsibility. Globalisation has changed the way people view and manage heath issues. It has offered new challenges and opportunities for health (Alemanno 2011). Various aspects of globalisation such as improved transport and communication have led to the rapid spread of diseases and conditions that would traditionally be restricted to certain areas.
The same aspects have facilitated the improvement of health, with the transfer of personnel and medical supplies being easier and faster. It emerges that globalisation has affected health and its provision both positively and negatively (Brassett et al. 2009).
Some of the other ways in which globalisation has affected health include the sharing of the best practices across the globe, the provision of a specialised medical treatment that is widely accessible to most of the patients, and the sharing of scientific knowledge.
Several bodies have dominated the health sector in the provision of services, with the universal bodies setting the pace for the many organisations. The existence of global bodies such as the WHO has also been significant in the standardisation of medical therapies, with the same bodies stating the global norms in the industry.
Some of the infections that have been able to spread rapidly as an attribute of globalisation include the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). This infection was able to spread within days to a number of countries and cause deaths. The advent of globalisation has created inequalities.
It has also exposed the existing ones, which social, financial, and economic aspects (Bailey et al., 2008). With the outbreak of SARS, for example, well-equipped countries were able to adequately screen and identify the possible areas for prevention of morbidity. The poor countries were not adequately prepared. They only benefited from the global effort to fight the disease.
The delivery of healthcare for all humanity requires international collaboration. Globalisation of health services is one ways to ensure that this collaboration happens. Some of the challenges in the health sector are too grave and big to be handled by individual nations.
The required resources may not be locally available. The bridging of the services requires the existence of an international body, which is exemplified by the WHO. The World Health Organisation has created several norms in the health sector. Various members have adopted them.
Examples of the components of global health that are linked to globalisation include disease surveillance, global disease advocacy, and human rights information transfer (Thompson 2008). Several international bodies have been linked with healthcare, either directly or indirectly.
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These were mainly active before the creation of the WHO, with others working in concert with the organisation (Beck, 1999; Beck, 2000). Some of the organisations mentioned to have a special role in the global health include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Rockefeller Foundation (Scholte 1997).The other institutions that are important to both globalisation and health include the World Bank (Scholte 1997).
Brief Historical Aspect
One of the major breakthroughs in globalisation was the creation of the United Nations (UN), with the body coming into existence in 1945 (Hay 2000). One of the subsidiaries that were suggested during the meeting to form this international body is the World Health Organisation.
The development led to the establishment of WHO in1948, with the exact date of inception being the seventh of April of 1948 (Scholte 1997). This day has been celebrated over time as the World Health Day that marks the establishment of the WHO and plotting the future of health.
In June of the year that the health body was established, delegates had an assembly that prioritised the health problems that existed at the time (Scholte 1997). These were mainly nutritional health concerns and the environmental sanitation and child health. The organisation has since grown from the original 55-member countries to constitute almost all nations in the world. The priorities have also been more global, with a focus on the global pandemics in health (Scholte 1997).
The globalisation of disease required the classification of the major causes of death and morbidity. There had been a list since mid-19th century with these diseases. With the inception of the WHO, the mandate of classifying diseases was left to it, with this measure being effectively referred to as the International Classification of Disease (ICD).
This strategy is among the first measure of globalisation that the UN body undertook, with the nations being required to standardise their disease classification. Globalisation is a means of achieving universal standards, and requires global participation (Giddens 1999).
In 1952, the WHO was able to develop one of the vaccines that are regarded as a major success: the polio vaccine. This vaccine is currently in use in many countries around the world. It acts as a measure of health globalisation (Taylor 2000).The developer, Dr Jonas Salk, developed the vaccine amidst a global health crisis that was precipitated by the polio virus.
The virus was a significant cause of morbidity, with millions of children being handicapped after the infection. With the development of the vaccine, the number of children with the same ailment has significantly reduced, with most countries clearing the infection (Taylor 2000).
Some of the other developments in the history of the organisation that have contributed to globalisation include the eradication of yaws (Scheytt et al. 1998, p. 1333). The current heart transplant programme that goes on in many countries around the world was a result of globalisation efforts of the WHO, with the first heart transplant being carried out in 1967 by a surgeon in South Africa (Goldblatt 2010).
The other successful globalisation of health services that the World Health Organisation has embarked on and managed successfully is the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (Goldblatt 2010). In 1974, the WHO established the programme that has provided vaccines against some of the global health programs to children. In many countries around the world, the expanded programme on Immunisation has set up bases to provide free and cheap vaccines.
The WHO coordinates them, with the main suppliers being the companies contracted by the organisation. The vaccination of children has led to the eradication of the common diseases that afflicted children before the creation of the WHO, with these being eradicated altogether.
Effects of WHO on Globalisation
The World health organisation has had significant effects on globalisation. As indicated above, the global nature of disease proved to be a bother to the international community, especially with the advent of global trade and travel. Diseases could be transmitted easily from one place to the other at different parts of the world, and populations could be wiped in a matter of days. With the entry of WHO, there was the development of policies to guard against the spread of these diseases (Mythen 2008).
The standardisation of medical practices, training, and disease control made possible internationally through the WHO means people can no longer worry about diseases or healthcare in general in the different parts of the world. As a result, one could conclude that the establishment of WHO has contributed positively towards globalisation.
Health has also been regarded as one of the major contributors of globalisation. Through the WHO, the globalisation has easily been realised. Health professionals are able to work in different parts of the word, with labour in the health sector being universally distributed and sought (Giddens 1990).
Effects of globalisation on WHO
Globalisation has long been recognised as a major factor influencing the distribution and provision of medical services. As a major player in global health, WHO has experienced the effects of the globalisation in total. These have been both beneficial and adverse to the operation of the international institution as stated above.
Among the major influence that globalisation has had on the WHO include the easy distribution of labour globally, allowing it to attain the much needed health services (Scott 2000; Butler 2008). Globalisation has also meant that WHO formulates global policies with consideration of all the health players in the world (Brown & Harman 2011; Milward & Provan, 2000).
Evaluation of the WHO Roles
Many researchers have analysed the performance of the WHO and evaluated its achievement of the set goals and objectives. Some of researchers have criticised the performance of the organisation, with others crediting it with good performance. Some of the people who have been strong critiques of the organisation include Fiona Godlee who critically evaluated “the effectiveness of the organisation and its policies, the administration, regional negotiations, and many other aspects of WHO” (1994a; 1994b; 1995, p. 111).
In their research, Dean Jamison, Julio Frenk, and Felicia Knaul concluded that the WHO had core and supplementary functions, which are demanded by the global heath actors (1998, p. 516). The carrying out of the major functions of the World Health Organisation is through the subsidiary bodies in the various countries and regions. The debate is whether they are effective in the management of the global aspects of health.
The functions of the WHO have constantly been revised. According to Ruger and Derek Yach, “in 1996-1997, the WHO Executive Board held 6 special meetings to review the Constitution, recommending rewriting WHO’s core functions to emphasise coordination, health policy development, norms and standards, advocating health for all, and advice and technical cooperation” (2009, p. 3)
The World Health Organisation has a number of challenges facing it in its quest for global health like any other global organisation in the world seeking globalisation (Adam, 2000). One of the major problems that face the organisation is the inequality that is occasioned by the different economic status of her member states. The WHO relies on the provision of funding from its major members as well as from the United Nations.
This funding is not sufficient to meet the budget for the programmes that it carries out. This insufficiency is one of the largest inhibitors to the provision of free medical care for some of the chronic conditions such as the AIDS pandemic (Clark, 1997; Thompson 2008).
Over the last few decades, the organisation has witnessed the development of major health concerns, with these affecting the provision of health services. These have been propagated by globalisation (Goldblatt2010; Taylor 2000; Scholte 1997). The outbreak of diseases in one part of the world easily spreads to the other.
The global transport network that allows the transit of goods and services at a fast speed (Goldblatt 2010; Sassen 1998) is responsible for this case. The advent of globalisation also means that patients are able to take diseases from one area to the other, with this making it hard for the WHO to institute measures aimed at controlling its spread.
The WHO has also run into difficulties in the eradication of some of the universal pandemics due to the complicated nature of the management. The major countries that fund the organisation have control over the organisation’s spending. This situation has affected the financial outlook of the organisation. Some competitive organisations such as the Centre for Disease Control have taken up some of the roles of the WHO in disease surveillance. Most of the funding has been diverted to these organisations.
Other challenges that the organisation faces include the poor research and technical capacity that exist in some of the member states compared to others. This situation creates competitive advantage in some nations and dependence in others. This means that the organisation’s funds are used more in some nations compared to others.
The WHO is an international organisation that deals with the health of all the earth’s population. Some problems have traditionally been restricted in certain areas. The best example is the nutritional factors such as obesity. In the current global village, these conditions have become universal with the onset of obesity in children who were traditionally not prone to it.
The organisation also faces administration issues and the shifting of focus from the global health concerns. Ruger and Derek Yach reveal, “Trends at WHO in the last several years however suggest a shift in priorities, evidenced also by the emergence of other entities in academia” (2009, p. 6).The above challenges are attributable to globalisation and can be easily resolved.
In conclusion, the current age is the age of globalisation. Many international institutions are at the forefront of facilitating globalisation. Trade, politics, and health are some of the sectors that have significantly been affected by globalisation. Communication and trade top the list. The advent of globalisation has however created some challenges and opportunities for the health sector. One of the most important bodies in the globalisation of health services is the World Health Organisation.
The world Health Organisation, as discussed, has its roots in the formation of the United Nations. The major mandate is the formation of international standards in health. According to the literature and information on the organisation, globalisation continues to challenge its existence.
One of the points that come out is that health is currently beyond individual countries or individuals, and thus the need for an international body. The standardisation of health services in the world is at an advanced stage under the WHO. However, several challenges are evident in the effort to achieve these standards.
In the essay, it is established that the WHO has core functions and subsidiary roles. The provision of standardised medical services universally is a core function of the WHO and a facilitation of globalisation. The various achievements that the WHO has had in the context of globalisation have also been highlighted. These include the eradication of some of the major illnesses that caused the death of millions of the world’s population.
The organisation has also been able to set up an international standards list, with all the member countries using this to classify the medical conditions and diseases. Another achievement is the control of major pandemics such as the HIV/AIDS that is currently ongoing.
The main challenges evaluated and assessed to have a major impact on the functioning of the organisation include financial shortage and management issues, as well as globalisation itself. In globalisation, the easy spread of diseases from one area to another and copying of practices from one area to another means that the organisation has a lot to do to curb the spread.
However, globalisation and health have coexisted, with globalisation allowing easy transfer of medical services and information from one corner of the planet to the other, thus enhancing accessibility of such services by all people around the globe.
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