The Relationship Between Globalization and Infectious Diseases

Global Health Policy and Governance

Although globalization exhibits negative and positive characteristics, global interconnectedness has enabled countries to distribute their goods and services across national borders. It has also supported the spreading knowledge and ideas from one region to another. Regardless of the benefits, globalization is a cause of serious challenges affecting various aspects of life. One of the most affected areas is public health. Many people are at risk of numerous health challenges resulting from global interconnectedness. Individuals suffer the risk of transnational health threats, which require coordinated efforts from global actors to address and overcome. The changes have created a shared responsibility for defense against threats to public health. While the world population faces many health challenges due to globalization, the most critical encounter is the hard-to-control spread of infectious disease, which requires a coordinated response and effective global health governance to address.

Globalization and Infectious Diseases

While globalization has a positive side, it has a negative aspect that actors should understand and manage to prevent detrimental effects. The negative side of globalization is what experts commonly refer to as “globalization and its discontents.” The concept means that the forces of globalization are counterproductive in various aspects, such as the negative impact of global economic policies, which have contributed to an increase in the gap between the wealthy and developing countries. Global interconnectedness has many aspects that harm independent countries more than support their development (Ashenfelter, Engle, McFadden & Schmidt-Hebbel 2018). Globalization has created significant partnerships to address challenges such as poverty, disease, hunger, and environmental degradation. However, by its very nature, including major integration, globalization worsens some of the problems. For example, infectious diseases can quickly spread to many countries because of the ease of movement from one place to another across the global environment. Therefore, globalization has a dark side that actors should understand and address to enjoy the benefits attached to global integration.

The spreading of infectious diseases is one of the most critical health challenges arising from globalization. Globalization creates a substantial concern regarding the epidemiology of infectious diseases because of the ease of movement from one part of the country to another. The changes involved in the interconnectedness have influenced many environmental, biological, and social forces that impact the burden of various infections. The interactions also create the challenge of effective prevention, control, and management of infectious diseases (Cockerham & Cockerham 2014). Globalization might affect the risk factors for an infectious disease. In most cases, infections begin in one country or region and spread through contact between various hosts, such as humans and animals. The effect of globalization in the process occurs because of the ease of movement of hosts from one country or region to another (Poulakou & Plachouras 2016). For example, due to the effective transportation system around the world, an infectious disease beginning in one country can be carried easily to other countries. People are always traveling for various reasons, such as vacations, education, or business. As a result, globalization causes challenges related to spreading and controlling infectious diseases.

Recent examples of infectious diseases can prove the argument that global interconnectedness poses the challenge of a high level of spreading. The World Health Organization (WHO) had to deal with a significant outbreak of an infectious disease in 2014. The global organization declared in 2016 that the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak was among the most devastating. The outbreak occurred in West Africa and spread across the region because of increased social interactions. It was almost three years of serious effort to address the world’s largest Ebola outbreak. The disease claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people. For instance, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the most affected countries. As of 2015, 23,258 Ebola virus disease cases were reported in “Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, resulting in more than 9,000 deaths” (Folayan et al. 2015, p. 242). Although the coordinated initiatives led to successful efforts to end the epidemic, the global interconnectedness might cause challenges in addressing future outbreaks of such infectious diseases. Without the ease of movement, the disease could affect restricted regions and fail to spread to other countries. Hence, globalization forces allow infected people to move to other countries, risking more people to infection. Globalization presents a new challenge for the management of infectious diseases.

Regardless of the challenges in controlling the spreading of infectious diseases, global health actors have the opportunity to address the problem through effective surveillance, monitoring, and reporting because of the improved technologies that support public health. Global information and communication technologies have a more pronounced capacity than before. However, the process requires successful coordination of efforts across the global arena. Global health governance has the role of controlling infectious diseases, especially in the modern era of globalization (Dodgson, Lee & Drager 2017). The World Health Organization fits to lead the coordinated response through global health governance to address the challenge of infectious diseases.

Architecture and Constituent Actors

The World Health Organization collaborates with various stakeholders to address the challenge of infectious diseases due to globalization. The Ebola outbreak case study provides a clear picture of the architecture and constituent parts of WHO in dealing with the global public health challenge. The World Health Organization deals with public health across the world. It is a United Nations specialized agency concerned with the health of the global masses (World Health Organization 2015). Since its inception on 7 April 1948, the agency has had a major role in fighting and addressing significant public health challenges globally. Some of its present challenges include fighting infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and infectious diseases, such as Ebola and the recent outbreak of Coronavirus. The organization also deals with mitigation efforts in non-communicable conditions, such as reproductive health, STIs, and nutrition. However, the organization does not work alone but collaborates with national and international actors to achieve its public health objectives.

The World Health Organization is a part of global health partnerships supporting its mandate in addressing infectious diseases worldwide. It works with other international agencies, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and governments around the world. The joint efforts are critical because global interconnectedness creates a challenge for one agency or government. Besides, the World Health Organization requires substantial funding to achieve its mandate to deal with infectious diseases affecting the global population. Another role of collaborative efforts is to design and develop methods that are suitable for the health challenge since all health issues are unique. For example, the approach used to deal with the Ebola outbreak might fail to work when dealing with the current Coronavirus outbreak (Mackey 2016). However, the collaborating actors should contain the outbreak to prevent a global epidemic. The World Health Organization should engage all the partners and collaborate effectively to address the global challenge caused by infectious diseases. Besides, the World Health Organization is well suited to spearhead the process of finding novel treatments through clinical development. However, the organization cannot work alone to achieve the objective of controlling major outbreaks. Effective interventions require coordinated efforts to attain effective data sharing and synergistic overlap without duplicating the effort and outcome.

Governments worldwide, especially in the most at-risk countries, should lead discussions with WHO and other constituent actors to address the global health challenge. Governments around the world, especially in developing countries, leverage global resources to support and expand current expertise in addressing infectious diseases (Perrings et al., 2014). National governments work with other international agencies besides WHO to access material and immaterial support to deal with public health challenges, such as infectious diseases. Other international agencies that support WHO and national governments include the United States Agency for International Development, CARE International, and the United Nations Children’s Fund among others. National governments also achieve financial and other forms of support, such as drugs and research, from non-governmental organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), CARE International, International Medical Corps, and The International Committee of the Red Cross, among others. Some of the stakeholders engage in direct assistance in the event of an outbreak (Mackey 2016). The World Health Organization and the stakeholders have an important role because the globalization process still creates a risk of high-level occurrences of infectious diseases.

Significant efforts are required to deal with the global challenge of infectious diseases. The World Health Organization needs to coordinate more effort to prevent and address any outbreaks. Notably, the organization should proactive and not wait for an outbreak to act. Hence, national actors are also critical in the effort to deal with the global challenge. National expertise can be involved in the coordinated attempt to effectively solve infectious disease outbreaks. The collaborative efforts should include high-caliber clinical research and the allocation of resources to enhance national technical expertise. Ethics committees should also be involved in developing review protocols, monitoring clinical investigations, and working in close contact with the national and international actors to develop effective solutions (Folayan et al., 2015). Generally, the World Health Organization has adequate support to address the global challenge of infectious diseases.

Reflections on Reforming Global Health Governance

The analysis of the literature reveals the need to reform global health governance to improve the effort to deal with infectious diseases around the world. The Ebola virus disease outbreak informs the need for such reforms in global health governance to improve its effectiveness in tackling outbreaks. The effort to deal with the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak took almost three years (Mackey 2016). At the same time, the outbreak was significant in testing the efficacy and readiness of global health governance in dealing with major infectious disease outbreaks (Dodgson, Lee & Drager 2017). Only a few years after dealing with the Ebola virus disease, the World Health Organization and its global partners have to deal with the outbreak of another viral disease, the Coronavirus. Such challenges require extensive reforms of global health governance to become more effective in dealing with the challenges.

Global health governance should be reformed to focus more on prevention through effective surveillance and monitoring. The actors should not only focus on treating victims and preventing potential further transmissions when the disease has already occurred but also focus more on the prevention of an outbreak. Surveillance, prevention, and sufficient response capability should be the current focus of global health governance in terms of infectious diseases. Global health governance requires greater competence and capability to conduct surveillance, monitoring, and investigation of health threats (Gresham et al., 2013). The International Health Regulations (2005) propose the need for a coordinated national and international system to achieve the objectives. Governments should also design notifiable disease legislation founded on clinical observations and extensive research. As a result, global health governance will be equipped with defensive capabilities to become more proactive in dealing with infectious diseases.

Global health governance requires changes related to commercial, social, political, and economic determinants. The process requires additional financial resources from the global partners, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations to acquire and use the technological capacity to improve surveillance and monitoring of infectious diseases. The partners should educate members of societies, especially in the most at-risk communities, to identify any signs of an outbreak. Global health governance should have the necessary resources and expertise to reach the most marginalized communities with the information (Dodgson, Lee & Drager 2017). An educated population will help to control outbreaks and even prevent their occurrence. Besides, global health governance should have political support from the national government to achieve its mandate effectively. All governments should be more involved in the surveillance and monitoring infectious diseases (Gresham et al., 2013). Overall, the process requires high cooperation and collaboration at the local, national, and international levels.

Global health governance should focus more on extensive collaboration to achieve effectiveness in dealing with infectious diseases. Although the process occurs at a global level, they should value local actors and networks because they provide essential information on potential contagious disease outbreaks. Working at the grassroots level will improve disease monitoring and surveillance by providing necessary data to work within the control and prevention efforts. Governments should develop innovations and regulatory frameworks at the local level to effectively conduct surveillance, monitoring, and control of infectious diseases (Dodgson, Lee & Drager 2017). Local, national, and international efforts are necessary to create a more accountable and responsive global health governance.


Globalization has led to benefits and drawbacks in various aspects of life. Global interconnectedness has provided significant opportunities for individuals, organizations, and countries. At the same time, it has led to challenges, especially in public health. One such issue is the control of infectious diseases amid the interconnectedness. Major infectious disease outbreaks remain a serious health challenge affecting global health governance. Therefore, organizations such as the World Health Organization have the challenge of improving surveillance and monitoring to address the public health challenge. Such organizations should collaborate more effectively with local, national, and international actors to implement enhanced surveillance and control mechanisms. Overall, significant changes and reforms in global health governance to address globalization challenges are required.



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Cockerham WC & Cockerham GB 2014, ‘Health and globalization’, The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society, pp. 954-972.

Dodgson R, Lee K, & Drager N 2017, ‘Global Health Governance, a conceptual review’,  In Global Health pp. 439-461, Routledge.

Folayan MO, Brown B, Haire B, Yakubu A, Peterson K & Tegli J 2015, ‘Stakeholders’ engagement with Ebola therapy research in resource-limited settings’, BMC Infectious Diseases, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 242-251

Gresham L, Smolinski M, Suphanchaimat R, Marie Kimball A & Wibulpolprasert S 2013, ‘Creating a global dialogue on infectious disease surveillance: Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS)’, Emerging Health Threats Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 19912-19921.

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Mackey TK 2016, ‘The Ebola outbreak: Catalyzing a “shift” in global health governance?’, BMC infectious diseases, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 699-706

Perrings C, Castillo-Chavez C, Chowell G, Daszak P, Fenichel EP, Finnoff D, … & Levin S 2014, ‘Merging economics and epidemiology to improve the prediction and management of infectious disease,’ EcoHealth, vol., 11, no. 4, pp. 464-475.

Poulakou G & Plachouras D 2016, ‘Planet’s population on the move, infections on the rise’, Intensive Care Medicine, vol. 42, no. 12, pp. 2055-2058.

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