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COVID-19 could be the end of ‘global health’ as we know it

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Source: Colin McInnes, The Conversation, 18 May 2021, photo credit: The George Institute for Global Health

The pandemic has made us painfully aware of our common vulnerability to disease outbreaks. New communicable diseases originating in one part of the world can spread quickly and widely, underlining that health is a global concern. But this is old news.

The advent of the concept of “global health” is well established in both the academic literature and policy discussions, reflecting the consensus that we have seen a fundamental change in the nature of the causes and outcomes of ill-health in recent decades.

This change is rooted in the effects of globalisation and seen not only in the spread of communicable diseases, but in other developments – the globalised pharmaceutical market, the emergence of global civil society, new international health actors with a global perspective (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the migration of health professionals.

These developments combined to create a powerful sense of change, such that as long ago as 2008, the UK government declared that “health is global”. COVID-19 appears to reinforce this narrative. Most striking, of course, is the spread of the disease. It has touched almost everyone. Within 18 months of its appearance, the WHO has identified only 14 countries reporting zero cases, 12 of which were Pacific Islands which had implemented strict travel restrictions, reinforcing sea borders.
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