Mar 24, 2020 in Political

book Global Health Diplomacy

In the globalized world, the health problems are no longer limited by the state boundaries. The reduction of barriers significantly simplified the process of penetration for the contiguous diseases. Therefore, the policy of open borders and worldwide interconnectedness highlight the necessity of meeting the new challenge by utilizing the international efforts for sustaining the public health. In their article Global Health Diplomacy: The New Recognition of Health in Foreign Policy, Ilona Kickbusch and Christian Erk attribute the emergence of health foreign policy to globalization and growing worldwide interest in international cooperation.

The authors primarily focus on the external dimension of the health problems. While globalization slowly and persistently removes the borders between the nation states, infectious diseases meet no obstacles for the free dispersion. Kickbusch and Erk argue that the commercial, political and cultural interconnectedness is the obvious feature of the modern world. Therefore, the concept of isolation is likely to become a sign of the short-sited thinking. The countries have little chances to remain untouched by the turmoil in the neighboring states since the national borders are useless in providing protection from the external threats in the globalized world. The assertion is especially relevant concerning the public health. According to Kickbusch and Erk, health cannot be limited to the national issues anymore since “bacteria, viruses and parasites” ignore the state boundaries. Thus, these problems are likely to turn into the international threats that require the multilateral cooperation for being solved. Kickbusch and Erk strongly promote the idea of “the global health action” as an effective mechanism for ensuring the national security by means of the collective initiatives. Ultimately, the authors articulate a direct correlation between the individual well-being and the international commitment to eradicate the universal source of disasters. The promotion of international cooperation is viewed as an integral objective of the worldwide campaign, aimed at health protection.


Apart from the general overview of the modern tendencies, the article contains the credible arguments in favor of the politicization of health. Firstly, the notable experts advocate the utilization of the diplomatic tools for incorporating the health issues into the international agenda. In the authors’ words, the alignment of “the national interests with the diplomatic, epidemiological and ethical realities” can bring health issues into the focus of foreign policy. Kickbusch and Erk propose to incorporate the term “health foreign policy” into the wide usage by the state officials and make it an essential part of the diplomatic agenda. The concept of health diplomacy presupposes the application of a wide range of the diplomatic activities and the participation of numerous actors. International cooperation, in particular, may stimulate the development of new content, practices and format of the multilateral negotiations.

Secondly, Kickbusch and Erk argue that the innovations will require the inclusion of the experts in the related fields and, therefore, substantially increase the number of participants. The negotiations are likely to benefit from inviting the non-governmental organizations, scientists, activists, media and private sector for the participation in the process of combating health threats. In addition, a new tendency is likely to initiate integration of national policies by means of their unification under a single program of actions. Evidently, the authors intend to illustrate the growing interest in the pressing health-related issues as well as to prove the necessity to address the contemporary challenges by means of collaborative efforts. The article appears useful in highlighting the benefits of developing the methodological aspect of health diplomacy in terms of overall diversification of negotiation practices.

In accordance with the expressed intentions, the researchers provide the compelling grounds for the deep cooperation in the area of public health. The provided evidence suggests the inevitability and vital importance of treating health as international commodity. Firstly, Kickbusch and Erk trace the interconnection between the physical well-being of every individual and the overall economic and industrial prosperity of the state. Their analysis ultimately reveals the impossibility of treating health issues in isolation from other aspects of the state policy. Secondly, Kickbusch and Erk explain the process of unification of the state policies. Since the fragmentation of the national strategies is a considerable obstacle for the goal-oriented international projects, the appropriate adjustments are necessary for harmonization of the joint efforts. In addition, the authors bring the readers’ attention to the possible changes in the format of negotiations. Increasing the number of participants seems to be the logically efficient decision since the inclusion of the authoritative experts from multiple areas of knowledge is likely to diversify the range of possible solutions and, consequently, increase the chances of designing the action strategies. Overall, the authors successfully articulate the possible changes in the diplomatic practices whereas the unification of national health strategies is viewed as a logical step in designing the worldwide health projects.

However, the article lacks persuasiveness due to the restricted area of focus. While authors are determined to shape and explain the external dimensions of public health, there is certainly room for adjustments. The authors mainly derive their arguments from the detailed analysis of the official documents and deductive thinking. The chosen approach allows designing the theoretical framework for health diplomacy. Alternatively, the statistical data and factual examples of the overlapping connections between health sustenance and other indicators of the national prosperity would add credibility to the argument. The detailed calculations and graphic charts would help to create the mathematical model of health-related projects and highlight the interconnected areas of national policy. Similarly, the explanation of the newly coined term “foreign health policy” lacks the practical illustrations. While Kickbusch and Erk supply the audience with the elaborated definition of the term as well as the theoretical changes in the diplomatic practices that it presupposes, the article does not include the information on the mechanisms of formation and conduct of negotiations in a new format. In that case, the discussion of the possible variations of collaborative cooperation would be relevant and helpful for the deeper understanding of the assertion. The process of diversification of the diplomatic interactions may entail the participation in international forums, scientific and diplomatic conferences that would facilitate the exchange of ideas, the establishment of international institutions and research facilities whose primary objective would be the collection of relevant data. Finally, the article does not contain any practical recommendations for the implementation of the foreign health policy. The authors seem entirely focused on the theoretical implications of international projects. Conversely, the inclusion of the comprehensive outline of the unification process for the national governments would certainly add credibility to the article. The process may consist of the initial harmonization of the national documentary base with the international health legislation and the subsequent design of the legislative and executive bodies of international health institutions that would enjoy the beneficial cooperation with private and governmental entities as well as the experts in the health-related areas. Therefore, the article is successful in posing the question about the possible innovations in the diplomatic discourse while the authors neglected to incorporate the practical recommendations and anticipated results.

In conclusion, the article primarily deals with globalization of health issues. The authors highlight the overall significance and theoretical aspects of the incorporation of the universal threat into diplomatic agenda. However, the work lacks the practical implications of the innovative practices and fails to provide the factual data on numerous occasions. Therefore, a close look at the article allows determining its success in focusing the audience’s attention on growing role of health foreign policy and failure to define its future prospects.


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