Advances in technology and the spread of information have altered the nature of exchange, specialization, and communication between economic entities. During globalization, a concentration of power in the hands of corporations has undoubtedly occurred. Participation in the global economy decreases the power of state governments to control their own economic destinies as a collective economic destiny becomes global. Moreover, globalization gives populations across the world greater exposure to different peoples, values, and habits. Communications, media, and the Internet cross boundaries, as do people who come into contact with foreigners when they travel to foreign lands. Thus, it comes as no surprise that globali zation affects the health sector, the tourist sector, and therefore also medical tourism.
With respect to health, globalization helps spread communicable diseases as more than two million people cross international borders every day. Increased trade in live animals and animal products has increased the spread of foodborne diseases (such as mad cow disease) and also trade in cigarettes and tobacco products has increased. A WHO study noted that globalization affects health and health affects globalization. It affects health insofar as it enables economic growth, which in some cases reduces poverty (which is clearly tied to health issues). At the same time, poor public health prevents a country from being incorporated into the global economy as it keeps productivity low.
Tourists represent globalization par excellence as there is consensus in the social science literature that the link between tourism and globalization is strong. Donald Reid said that tourism is one of the main products being globalized while Frances Brown argued that it is one of the main forces driving globalization. According to John Lea, “There is no other international trading activity which involves such critical interplay among economic, political, environmental, and social elements as tourism.” Thus, through consumption, production, and investment of tourist goods and services, even the poorest third world countries become linked to the global economy.
Therefore, both health and tourism are an integral part of transnational economic activity associated with globalization. The cross between them, namely medical tourism, is thus also a part of globalization insofar as it is enabled by it and, by its very nature, reinforces further globalization.