Globalization and the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Globalization and the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Globalization is a topic that has been around for centuries and is a present phenomenon, but what is it exactly? Globalization is defined as a process of interaction and integration between people, companies, and governments of multiple different nations across the world (“What is Globalization?,” 2016). It is a process that has existed as long as international trade and will continue to exist as long as nations continue to buy and sell from one another. Globalization is a process that impacts people and communities all around the world that are participating in this kind of international relation.  It covers a wide spectrum of forces such as, the environment, technology, different demographics, the economy, as well as multiple others. Globalization elicits a lot of changes within each of these forces, changes that have very wide spread effects on humans and on the communities that they inhabit. This topic is however very controversial and many arguments have been made in favor as well as against this process. “Proponents of globalization argue that it allows poor countries and their citizens to develop economically and raise their standards of living, while opponents of globalization claim that the creation of an unfettered international free market has benefited multinational corporations in the Western world at the expense of local enterprises, local cultures, and common people.” (“What is Globalization?,” 2016). Both sides of the argument hold very strong values and opinions that are influenced by factors such as health. 

Macintosh HD:Users:sydneyhamby:Documents:deaths_infectious_diseases.gif The effects of Globalization on overall health, is a major concern for all nations. A topic that has been closely associated with Globalization is the greater spread of infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are those that are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi and can be spread from one person to another either directly or indirectly (WHO, 2016). Direct contact is when an infectious disease is contracted by direct contact from one person to another person, an animal to a person, or from a mother to her unborn child. Indirect contact is when an infectious disease is contracted by coming in contact with an item that has been contaminated with the germs of the disease. Insect bites as well as food contamination are also common ways that infectious diseases are transferred. 

Mosquitos are well known for passing malaria onto humans through a bite and E. coli is a common disease that is transferred through the consumption of undercooked food. 

Understanding infectious diseases is a key component to understanding the relationship between them and Globalization. In the world today, approximately half of all deaths that are caused by infectious diseases can be traced back to three diseases: tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS (Networks, 2000). Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is a contagious disease that is caused by bacteria that causes an infection that spreads rapidly through the bloodstream to any of the body’s organs. TB is contagious because of how easily it can be transmitted through the air. Malaria is a disease that is transmitted through a mosquitos bite and can be deadly if there are no useful treatment drugs available. The mosquito bite causes an infection that can develop into anemia, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria, which is when capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked (Maitland, 2016). AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is an incurable disease that is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. AIDS is primarily transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids during heterosexual intercourse and it is a fatal pandemic (Networks, 2000). Other well-known infectious diseases that have a presence all over the world are Hepatitis, Influenza, Pneumonia, Meningitis, and Strep Throat. Majority of these infectious diseases were once mass epidemics that eventually died out and are recently making themselves present all over the world. 

There are multiple ways that infectious diseases impact the different areas of globalization. One area of globalization that is impacted by the spread of infectious diseases is the global economy. “Economic globalization is the restructuring of the world economy, from one centered on production and exchange relations between economic entities located in different countries (international economy), towards “a highly complex, kaleidoscope structure involving the fragmentation of many production processes and their geographical relocation on a global scale in ways which slice through national boundaries” (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004). The world economy has opened tremendously within the past few decades and there is an overwhelming amount of opportunities to trade and invest in countries all around the world. Nations are moving away from a strictly international economy to a global one and it is having significant effects on the spread of infectious diseases. 

Infectious diseases become an economic concern when they become so wide spread that it is necessary to take action against them. Some of these actions would include research into possible treatments or vaccinations, containment, and proactive preventative measures. All of these possible actions are very costly affairs and in low-income countries where these diseases are prevalent, there isn’t enough government money or resources to create the kind of facilities or resources that would be necessary. International trade of certain products such as food products and pharmaceutical products also creates a risk for spreading certain infectious diseases. 

There is also a strong relationship between infectious diseases and technological globalization. The tremendous advances in technology over the last century have made the current globalization phenomenon possible. Communications, travel, commerce, engineering, and health care technologies have taken global interactions to a higher level (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004). These massive advances have led to positive and negative consequences in relation to the spread of infectious diseases. 

On the positive side, developments in medical technologies across the world have had significant impacts on the detection and treatments of infectious diseases. Scientists and medical professionals from all nations have the opportunity to work together and create products such as vaccines and treatment plans to target dangerous and widespread infectious diseases to prevent them from spreading even more than they already have because of the technologies that globalization has brought about. 

The negative consequences of all of this technological advancement are far greater than the positive outcomes. One of the largest contributors to how wide spread infectious diseases have become is the advancement of transportation technologies. Traveling between countries has become a very accessible and rather speedy affair. If one possesses the correct documentation and funds, it is very easy to cross the borders into different countries. International travel has become increasingly popular over the past few years because of one how easy it is and two, people tend to have a general curiosity about the world that leads to the want to travel.  When people follow this urge and travel to low – income countries where a certain infectious disease may be present and then these travelers continue on to a different country or return home, they are potentially carrying that disease to a whole new place. Thus, technological advancements have indirectly led to the spread of infectious diseases. 

Continued look at the forces associated with globalization and their relationship to infectious diseases shows a correlation between the global demographic shift and the spread of disease. A demographic shift is caused by the migration or immigration of large groups of people and as previously stated, when people travel from one nation to another, they have the potential to create an epidemic in wherever their target location is. There are a lot of driving forces in some countries that would cause the citizens to want to make this kind of move to a different country. Majority of the people that reside low-income countries live in extreme poverty and filth. “Poverty, overcrowding, repression and economic failure, for example, not only encourage people to move but often lead to the breakdown of public health infrastructure, and of provision of housing, safe and sufficient drinking water, sanitation, and education” (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004). All of these are driving factors behind a shift in the demographics that the world is experiencing. Other factors may include but are not limited to that would cause mass migration would be internal conflict Macintosh HD:Users:sydneyhamby:Documents:bargraph-region.gifand large amounts of violence within a country, as well as natural disasters that destroy parts of a country. With the ease of traveling that the technological advances has created, why wouldn’t these communities try to move somewhere where they can have a greater quality of life? 

Although, not all migration/immigration plans go as planned for these people who seek a better life. Many people travel to different countries and still live in poverty and terrible conditions. In relation to infectious diseases, this means that they are being carried from one country to another and instead of treatments being found, they are simply spread throughout the impoverished communities of the country before becoming even more widespread. The people who are forced to flee their countries and become refugees, simply do not have the time to make accommodations in the country that they are fleeing to, which leads to mass amounts of people living in refugee camps. In the world today, the current Syrian civil war has brought about extreme violence and things like airstrikes on the city of Aleppo, Syria. This violence has cause tens of thousands of Syrian people to flee and become refugees seeking somewhere safe to reside in Turkey (Greenburg, 2016). Large amounts of migration such as this create dangers in relation to infectious diseases. The healthcare system in Syria has been drastically reduced as a result of all of the violence and a major result of this is that children are not being vaccinated for infectious diseases such as polio, measles, and tuberculosis (Petersen, Baekeland, Memish, & Leblebicioglu, 2013). This creates the risk for the spread of these diseases into Turkey and the multiple other countries where these people are seeking refuge. 

Economic globalization, technological globalization, and the global demographic shift are all major factors that link globalization to the greater spread of infectious diseases. However, the most influential factor in the correlation between infectious diseases and globalization is the global environment change. Environment is a very broad term that is often mistaken as being only the natural aspects of an environment. Yet, environment refers to the social and built environments as well as the natural one.  This is important to distinguish because all of these aspects of environment play an influential role in how human health is shaped in a certain area.  “Over the past 50 years, huge increases in economic and industrial activity have led to unprecedented effects on air, land and water environments, and the resulting changes have important and wide – ranging implications for human health, with different populations facing varying degrees of vulnerability to positive and negative impacts.” (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004). Global climate changes have been a public concern in recent years and it continues to be a pressing issue. The earth itself is warming and this rise of global temperatures causes changes to happen in weather and climate all over the world. To help provide an understanding of how environments are affected it is important to know the difference between global warming and climate change. Global warming references the rise in average temperatures on near the earth’s surface and it is caused in large part because of the rapidly rising amounts of greenhouse gases that are present in the earth’s Macintosh HD:Users:sydneyhamby:Documents:global-warmiong-graph.jpgatmosphere. Climate change is more related to major changes that occur over periods of time in things such as; temperature, rainfall, wind, and other significant weather patterns. (“Climate Change: Basic Information,” n.d.)

Whether or not there are significant impacts on human health in the world based on the environment depends on a multitude of factors. One of these factors would be the vulnerability of a society to such changes as these. If the country has the funds and resources to prepare for drastic changes than the health impacts are likely to be significantly less than the effects an environmental change would have on a society that doesn’t have the resources to prepare for a large climate shift. To be more specific, high income and wealthy countries have the means to create buildings and structures that could withstand high temperatures or natural disasters, as well as have health policies in place to prevent the spread of diseases in case the problem were to arise. On the other hand, low income countries that are susceptible to infectious diseases already, will be more vulnerable to the health effects of climate change because of their lack of ability to prepare for things such as natural disasters or extreme heat/cold. 

The spread of infectious diseases in the world is on the rise and the rapidly changing environment is increasing the ability of these diseases to travel from person to person and country to country. Some ways in which infectious diseases are taking advantage of the environment to become more wide spread is through water and deforestation and land clearance. Water is a forever changing, but always constant part of the environment, natural and social. It is one of the three basic needs to survive and so it will always have major role to play in the lives and health of the human race. In high income and well-developed countries such as the United States of America, water is not something that people worry about safely consuming whenever they need to. However, this is not the case in a large part of the world. Freshwater is not a common resource in many low income and developing countries and that means that the water they have access to is often contaminated or heavily concentrated with salt. This becomes in issue in relation to the spread of infectious diseases because many infectious bacteria live in water and when the climate changes and causes things such as water warming up, or natural disasters that pollute rivers, lakes, and dams, the bacteria thrive and multiply rapidly. Outside of natural environmental causes, there are also many man-made causes that could lead to infectious diseases being spread through water. Some of these causes would include construction along rivers and other bodies of water, more commonly waste pollution contaminating water resources. All of these factors create prime conditions for the bacteria that cause infectious diseases to multiply and come in contact with humans. 

Deforestation and land clearance are factors that have in recent years and historically contributed to the detriment of health conditions and the greater spread of infectious diseases around the world. The need for deforestation is driven by humanities increasing need for space to live and develop, the need for land to cultivate crops, as well as the need for different kinds of fuel. Also, “the expansion and liberalization of trade has played an important role in making deforestation more financially attractive to countries consumed by debt.” (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004) The globalization phenomenon has created this financial opportunity with trade and many developing countries have seen this as an opportunity to advance their countries. Deforestation gives way to logging as an industry that is popular in the global trading market, but there are many negative consequences that come from clearing mass amounts of land. 

Macintosh HD:Users:sydneyhamby:Documents:hunger_malaria_infographics.jpg The forests themselves provide health benefits to an environment and its communities. Benefits such as shade protection from the sun, forests absorb carbon dioxide that is in the air and places for animals to reside without interfering with the human societies. When the forests are cleared, temperatures are likely to rise, animals will be more inclined to human contact, and when people migrate to the cleared areas they are exposing themselves to areas where they are non – immune. One of the main infectious diseases that arise in areas of large amounts of deforestation is malaria. This is likely because the forests are no longer their to collect moisture from rain and the air and this creates areas of rain water run off that are breeding areas for mosquitoes that carry the malaria infection. (Saker, Lee, Cannito, Gilmore, & Campbell-Lendrum, 2004) “In 2015 an estimated 214 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 438,000 people died” (CDC, 2016). Malaria is a potentially life threatening disease that is linked to globalization because of its presence in different environments and the ability it has to spread from continent to continent through travelers and immigrants. 

Overall, the global environment and how it is rapidly changing creates a lot of pressures and insecurities surround infectious diseases and the overall health of populations. There are just so many potential disasters that could immediately bring about an infectious disease epidemic and so little countries that could withstand this kind of problem. 

Lastly but not least it evident that globalization is undertaking measures of ensuring that it helps fights microbial threats.  This is through a change in research methods used to assemble data. Globalization helps in improvising nature of research partnership and training between less developed and developed nations. This leads to the emergence of modern effective vaccines and treatment that can go a long way in saving millions of lives.

Other than a newer approach to infectious syndrome control on the part of the civic health sector, globalization calls for a new legal framework. The changing character of the territorial and dominion basis of governments has a remarkable impact on public health legislation and the significance of intercontinental policies on the control and prevention of up-and-coming infectious diseases. Although international health policies are likely to be revised, that alone is not enough. Probably rule of the law and governance may alter the way in which revised policies might meet the legal requirement of a new, globally synchronized approach to the supervision of public health.

Finally, it is important for globalization to have a new social scientific framework for not only studying infectious syndrome but also for understanding their root cause. This might be an expensive investment but considering the benefits it will bring forth it is worthwhile. Countries should come together and contribute to funding such initiatives. With globalization information about an infectious disease is quickly spread over long distances within the shortest time possible. People are able to be aware of a disease and do all that is expected of them in avoiding chances of them contracting the illness. Decades ago this was not the case, in the 90’s it took quite a period of time before news about an outbreak of a disease could be widely spread out. Also, globalization widens the pool of ideas where doctors can change and share ideas in coming up with means of immunizing people from the infectious disease.

However, on the same hand, it is also true that through globalization the rate of spread of some infectious diseases has tremendously escalated. This is mainly because of a lot of people coming together in one location either because of work or for entertainment. In cities that are densely populated with people from various corners of the world eruption of a deadly infectious disease can be catastrophic and result in the loss of life of many civilians. But all in all the advantages that the world reaps from globalization exceeds the shortcomings faced as far as infectious diseases are concerned.


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