Chapter Two: Cultural Globalization

VII. Organizational and Commercial Trends Towards Cultural Globalization

VIIB: Health

There are vast numbers of international health and relief organizations, charitable, religious or public in their nature, but here the concentration is on those organizations whose agenda takes in cultural and ethical change in addition to relief or health improvement as such.

Health Organizations:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. It directs and coordinates the international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations of conflict. It also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

Medecins Sans Frontieres. It is part of MSF's work to address any violations of basic human rights encountered by field teams, violations perpetrated or sustained by political actors. It does so by confronting the responsible actors themselves, by putting pressure on them through mobilisation of the international community and by issuing information publicly. In order to prevent compromise or manipulation of MSF's relief activities, MSF maintains neutrality and independence from individual governments.

The Global Health Council, formerly the National Council of International Health, is a US-based, nonprofit membership organization that was created in 1972 to identify priority world health problems and to report on them to the US public, legislators, international and domestic government agencies, academic institutions and the global health community. The Global Health Council Policy Series provides a platform for global health practitioners to inform and engage in global health policy through congressional briefings, educational forums, and policy dinner dialogues.

The World Health Organization is the United Nations specialized agency for health. WHO is governed by 193 Member States through the World Health Assembly. From the perspective of developing global standards and practices, the WHO's Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law (ETH) unit is relevant.

The work carried out by ETH, which involves technical units across WHO/HQ as well as regional and country offices, ranges from activities that date to WHO's founding to responses to the most contemporary challenges facing Member States. It aims to promote human dignity, justice and security in health, and to ensure that the emerging global architecture for health governance is developed in line with ethical and human rights principles.

The International Medical Informatics Association is an independent organization established under Swiss law in 1989. IMIA plays a major global role in the application of information science and technology in the fields of healthcare and research in medical, health and bio-informatics.

In the next few years IMIA says it will focus on "bridging the knowledge gap" by facilitating and providing support to developing nations. Specific goals include supporting the ongoing development of the African Region, and, on a broader basis, the development of the "Virtual University", an ongoing initiative of IMIA’s working Group 1, Health and Medical Informatics Education.

At the fall meeting of 2000, a task force was established by the General Assembly to develop an Ethical Code of Practice for adoption by IMIA. The resulting draft was reviewed by the General Assembly in the 2001 meeting, following detailed consultation with IMIA member countries and was submitted for approval in the fall of 2002.

The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) is an international, non-governmental, non-profit organization established jointly by WHO and UNESCO in 1949.

The main objectives of CIOMS are:

To achieve its objectives, CIOMS has initiated and coordinates long-term programmes in Bioethics (the issuance of international guidelines for the application of ethical principles in various key areas), Health Policy, Ethics and Human Values, and Drug Development and Use (standardized international reporting of individual cases of serious, unexpected adverse drug reactions).

It will be seen that, although there are as yet no formalized international rule-making or judicial bodies in the health sector, most of the organizations listed above are working their way towards global structures of ethical and practical guidelines. Within say 20 years, surely, the standards will have mandatory global application, and there will be a system of specialized tribunals to handle dispute resolution and rule-breaking among health practitioners and national agencies.