New Global Health Council Report Calls for Redefining Global Health Security

Contact:  Amber McCracken
703-599-0134
amber@glassrothcreativestrategies.com

Washington, DC:  A new report by the Global Health Council (GHC), the leading membership organization supporting and connecting advocates, implementers, and stakeholders around global health priorities worldwide, warns of the risks of the traditional approaches to global health security that have dominated the policy landscape for decades. In its new report, From Security to Solidarity: Examining Language to Make the Case for U.S. Investments in Global Health, GHC examines the trend of prioritizing certain health issues based upon the level of threat the condition presents to the public health of other countries. This approach, while helping to raise global awareness of certain health issues, other health issues can be undermined in the process, harming good public health practice.

“By basing funding decisions on the conditions that could threaten their own populations and economy, wealthy countries are conflating national security with health security,” stated Elisha Dunn-Georgiou, President and Chief Executive Officer, Global Health Council. “A more sustainable solution is to address threats through a human security lens, with a focus on equity, human rights, and solidarity.”

The concept of global health security was popularized during the HIV/AIDS epidemic as wealthier nations began to see how public health crises in other countries could be detrimental to the safety of their citizens at home. This narrative has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which starkly illustrates the interconnectedness of our world and how a single health condition can disrupt the entire societal structure. While the security framework has been effective in mobilizing resources and achieving advances in areas such as surveillance, laboratory capacity, and epidemiology in some countries over the years, inconsistent funding and changing agendas have resulted in scattered progress and fragmented efforts within global health systems.

According to the GHC report, “When ‘protection’ becomes the main justification for global health investment, and the focus is entirely on security, people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) often become seen as vectors of disease that threaten the United States or other high-income countries. Security as a primary narrative also risks elevating a singular health issue at the expense of a central focus on human rights, equity, dignity, and thriving development.”

GHC’s report points to the “boom and bust” cycle of funding in response to new health threats as unsustainable and working against long-term solutions for core challenges in healthcare, especially in LMICs.  As attention is diverted away from what high-income governments consider less immediate health challenges for the sake of security, the support for investing in comprehensive public health needs will be lacking.

From Security to Solidarity calls for specific action steps including more LMIC leadership, civil society voices, and an emphasis on human rights and equity in global health. GHC also recognizes that advocacy and programming for infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases needs to be better integrated, as many people live with multiple health conditions and comorbidities with intersecting social factors.

The report calls for specific actions and commits to leading this ongoing conversation:

  • Engaging with the broader foreign policy community on these issues;
  • Emphasizing a holistic, well-established definition of global health security that includes intersectional issues ensuring that related advocacy is not siloed;
  • Constructing a more cohesive narrative around zoonotic disease spillover and the importance of a “One Health” approach to global health security to be more proactive instead of just responding to the last emergency;
  • Integrating equity and Universal Health Coverage to health security efforts; and
  • Considering the human security needs of a person or population, rather than only the needs of the state.

From Security to Solidarity: Examining Language to Make the Case for U.S. Investments in Global Health was released in anticipation of the upcoming Global Health Landscape Symposium taking place virtually December 9 – 10.  Since 2015, Global Health Council has been convening members of its network in Washington, D.C. for this annual symposium to discuss current trends and calls to action in global health.

“Through both this report and the Symposium, GHC hopes to redefine global health security to be more multidisciplinary, holistic, and centered on the safety and security of all people,” said Dunn-Georgiou.

The report is available here. Interview, please contact Amber McCracken at 703-599-0134 or at amber@glassrothcreativestrategies.com.

 

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