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Article Review: Global Health and Foreign Policy Integration

Global Health and Foreign Policy Integration


The article “Global Health Diplomacy: The New Recognition of Health in Foreign Policy” by Kickbusch and Erk (2009) discusses the first steps of foreign policy taken towards the acknowledgment of health as a global public good. The central argument is that it ensures sustained national and international development in various realms. Moreover, the authors focus on the integrated structure of population’s health and its importance for a particular nation and global policy (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). The globalization of the health issue occupies one of the central positions in the discussion. The first steps towards the acknowledgment of the need to integrate it into foreign policy have been successful and resulted in the development of international health strategies and treaties. Although Kickbusch and Erk (2009) indicate that health is crucial on the individual, national and international levels, they fail to emphasize the issue of political, economic and social disparities within and among countries. However, the world community has to address these adversities with the aim to integrate health into foreign policy effectively.

Keywords: health, global public good, globalization, foreign policy, integration

Article Review: Global Health and Foreign Policy Integration

The article titled “Global Health Diplomacy: The New Recognition of Health in Foreign Policy” by Kickbusch and Erk (2009) underlines the significance of health within the overall framework of world development and assigns it the status of a global public good. Moreover, it considers the impact of the issue on international policy. Although the authors provide a consistent and well-structured approach to analyzing the argument, certain gaps constitute the basis for the critique of the article (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). Thus, despite the fact that Kickbusch and Erk (2009) argue that health is crucial on all levels, they fail to emphasize national and global disparities, which require the successful integration of the concept into foreign policy.

Article Summary

According to Kickbusch and Erk (2009), the issue of individual and population health is not only within the scope of the healthcare system solely, but also beyond it resting within the social, economic and political realms (p. 517). The authors consider it from the perspective of its influence on the prosperity of a country as an environment where a person lives and particularly underline the importance of health improvement for the state of mental and physical wellbeing (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). To support their argument, they provide an example of an outbreak of severe diseases, which can affect many nations and the global community significantly. Such was the case with the SARS or avian flu epidemic, which spread across borders, and governments failed to raise the issue at the international level and establish collaboration to avoid critical consequences (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). However, infectious diseases are not the only problem of the overall health policy, because non-communicable illnesses result from globalization and undermine global health to a significant extent.

Noncontagious illnesses, such as cardiovascular disorders or obesity, have become widespread nowadays. Moreover, even though at first glance, these problems are more related to the individual and national levels of health security, they result from lifestyle habits and conditions of living, which in turn depend on a variety of aspects, such as income, transportation, sanitation, and others. In this respect, Kickbusch and Erk (2009) argue that problems connected with both contagious and non-communicable diseases can be regarded as international and caused by globalization to a certain extent. In line with this, they emphasize the necessity to accept the concept of health as a global public good (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009, p. 519). According to the authors, it implies the creation of a framework, within which all countries realize their accountability for the promotion, achievement, and maintenance of constant global health improvement (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009).

Furthermore, the authors highlight conditions necessary for health improvement on the macro, middle and micro levels, which are considerably intertwined (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009, p. 517). They admit an attempt by the Oslo Ministerial Declaration of 2007 to align health-related national policies and foreign policy strategies with the aim to ameliorate the collaboration among countries in the global political, economic and social arenas. The authors consider this manifest to be the first step to the improvement of international cooperation aimed at the appreciation of health as a global public good (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). Even though at that time, it was only a statement of intent, which demonstrated the will of countries to work towards the shared goal of health improvement, but since then, this declaration has fostered the integration of health into foreign policy. Kickbusch and Erk (2009) emphasize the necessity to shape “health foreign policy” and to integrate it into the overall framework of international relations (p. 520). Therefore, a conclusion that arises from the argument put forward in the article is that the most effective foreign policy practices can hardly function without a consistent approach to health issues.

Article Critique

The article presents useful information on the importance of the issue of global health for international diplomacy, since all other aspects of national and foreign policy heavily rely on it, both intrinsically and extrinsically. From this point of view, the argument suggested by Kickbush and Erk (2009) has not lost its urgency up until nowadays. The authors consider health a global public good, which is one of the most important factors of global political, social and economic development (Kickbush & Erk, 2009). However, as the article indicates, health determinants include the prevention of diseases and the provision of beneficial conditions to support population’s health. Therefore, health support at the national level is pivotal, and the international approach is the second aspect, but not the only one, affecting the issue of health integration into the global foreign policy system. In other words, I disagree with the authors putting too much emphasis on external health factors disregarding internal ones, which nevertheless remain the most influential and requiring a quick response to population’s health needs (Kickbush & Erk, 2009).

On the other hand, the issue of health determinants inevitably leads to the topic of social, political and economic disparities in various countries, which considerably hinder their equal contribution to any global health initiative. Thus, the example of the contagious disease outbreak could have contained a reference to different living conditions in developed and developing nations. With this in mind, the dispute over the statement of health as a basis of national economic and social development can arise (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009, p. 518). Taking into account inadequate sanitation, malnutrition and other adversities in developing countries, their contribution to the global health initiative as equal partners can be questionable. Moreover, the identification of the issue as the one of primary urgency for such nations complicates matters, though economic and social development remains of utmost importance.

The authors make insightful observations of interrelated aspects of the global health system at the national and international levels (Kickbusch & Erk, 2009). However, they fail to indicate that health is a factor, which can also be dependent on other conditions. Therefore, while the article mentions only a one-way connection from the national health level to the international one, in fact, there is a mutual correlation between the population’s health and the economic and social development of a country. The relationship is bilateral, and living conditions often determine the health status of the national population. This impact of the social and economic environment on health is particularly evident in Africa with the ever-increasing concern about contagious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS spread, as well as inadequate healthcare services provision because of population’s distrust in international health aid. Consequently, the conclusion made by Kickbusch and Erk (2009) that health is a crucial prerequisite for the economic development of a country exhibits a certain inconsistency. The authors should have indicated the reverse influence of economic, political and social factors on the health status of the population and should have addressed the interdependence of health and foreign policy.


A convincing framework of the health influence on foreign policy helps to see the whole picture and address weak points at the national and international levels. Kickbusch and Erk (2009) describe it and emphasize the importance of collaboration and joint efforts of all countries to enhance health as a global public good. The lack of attention to social, political and economic disparities and their corresponding influence on the level of health can be considered a gap in argumentation. Overall, the message of the article is rather clear, namely that shared responsibility for health as a global public good is highly needed since it results in the effective integration of health into foreign policy.

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