The Globalization of Chronic Disease


George Weisz
(McGill University)

In Chronic Disease in the 20th Century: A History (2014), I argue that “chronic disease” as a central policy concept (lumping together numerous disparate conditions) developed in the United States in the early 20th century, reaching a peak in the 1950s and 1960s. European nations tended to be concerned with specific diseases like cancer and only began to embrace the comprehensive “chronic disease” as a term central to healthcare policy in the last years of the 20th century. One of the reasons they did so is because chronic disease had by this time become a global health issue. Organizations like the WHO and World Bank began to emphasize the need to prevent and control chronic diseases even in very poor countries, which had adapted some of the worst lifestyle features of the western world and which now suffered a “double” disease burden. In this talk I propose to analyze how international health policy gradually extended chronic disease from a problem of rich countries to one affecting lower- and middle- income countries. While epidemiological statistics supported to some extent such arguments, these statistics were uneven, in many cases speculative, and occasionally highly controversial. They were convincing to many because they were congruent with the rapid growth of global health institutions and with a variety of ideological positions.

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3rd December 2014, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: Jerry Morris A, Tavistock Place