Trade and Health: An Agenda for Action
Smith, Richard D.
Lancet 2009 February 28; 373(9665): 768-773
The processes of contemporary globalisation are creating ever-closer ties between individuals and populations across different countries. The health of a population, and the systems in place to deliver health care, are affected increasingly by factors beyond the population and health system. The Lancet's Series on trade and health has provided an overview of these links between international trade, trade liberalisation, and health, and raised the key issues that face the health community. In this final paper in the Series, we call for a substantial and sustained effort by those within the health profession to engage with issues of trade, to strengthen institutional capacity in this area, and to place health higher on the agenda of trade negotiations. The rapid rise of trade agreements and treaties, as well as trade that occurs beyond these institutional boundaries, means that further action is required by a range of actors, including WHO, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), regional agencies, foundations, national governments, civil society, non-governmental organisations, and academics. The stewardship of a domestic health system in the 21st century requires a sophisticated understanding of how trade affects, and will affect, a country's health system and policy, to optimise opportunities to benefit health and health care while minimising the risks posed though the assertion of health goals in trade policy. To acheive this will place a premium on all those engaged in health to understand the importance of trade and to engage with their counterparts involved in trade and trade policy. We hope that this Series has prompted the reader to become involved in these efforts.
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