Shaping a New Narrative



Global health security has long been seen as a public health & international development issue.

While true, the prevailing narrative often conflates “health Security” with “National Security. ”

this has benefits:

Greater investment in preparedness, response, and recovery policies and programming

Connecting the issue of global health to national security/foreign policy has driven needed investment in preparedness, response & recovery policies/programming.

Conveys a sense of urgency

Narratives such as “security” and “war” convey important messages of urgency for issues that need attention.

Funding and political commitment

Advocacy for health security drove funding & political commitment. As a result, global health organizations pragmatically shifted their messaging, regardless of their primary focus.

Throughout covid-19, “global health security” has been discussed more than ever.

There has been a push to frame pandemics as a global health security issue. Though policy makers were eager to hear messages related to global health security, the focus was largely on protecting individual populations and economies.

But, an entirely national security-based definition has unintended consequences. What does it really mean?

Whose health and security is at risk?

Who needs protecting?

Who determines the priorities?

What is – and is not – included in the definition?

Reaction, rather than planning

Too many topics included under the umbrella of “health security” waters down the concept and reduced its appeal to decision makers.

a “Boom & Bust” cycle of funding

Once high-income governments no longer feel at immediate risk, investing in comprehensive public health is less appealing.
Middle & lower income countries are left struggling to pay a disproportionate price.

What if, instead, we approached global health security from a solidarity perspective?

Lack of Clarity
Cycle of Panic
Sustainable Resources

What if we established a definition of global health security that is holistic and centers human rights, equity, dignity, and thriving development by:

Having more seats at the table

Civil society and communities understand the needs — and have gained the trust of — the populations they represent. They should not only be at the planning table, but take a leading role in making strategy and funding decisions.

Widening our radar screens

Other global threats (e.g. climate change and antimicrobial resistance) as well as structural drivers (e.g. governing processes, economic, and social policies) must be considered within a security framework.

Building our health systems muscle

Strengthening health systems will ensure they are more resilient and able to cope with emerging threats from within, rather than relying on outside donors for sporadic infusions of funding.

Call to Action

For Governments:

Scale Up

health systems strengthening, especially at the community level. Ensure all people have access to quality health services, when and where they need it, without suffering financial hardship.


in a strong and resilient workforce that can cope with emerging threats and maintain essential health services during a crisis. Key to this is supporting health workers by providing safe labor conditions, proper accreditation and remuneration for their work, and additional training to prepare for future crises.


communities and affected populations as key partners in decision making. As funding and policy decisions are made, key affected populations must play a leading role in developing the solutions that will work best in their unique community contexts. They should be at the heart of health security planning because they have the field experience to make the most effective and community oriented programmatic decisions.

For multilateral, technical, and implementing agencies:


a multi-sectoral and integrated approach to health. Address the gender and socio-economic drivers of health inequalities and focus on equitable outcomes for health, including through pro-equity social protection measures.


structures and mechanisms that secure the participation of LMIC CSOs and communities in decision-making processes in a meaningful way. Work to ensure that knowledge and lived experiences of communities and populations most at risk of being left behind are the basis for global health programming, policy development, implementation, and monitoring.


and share disaggregated data to identify and act upon inequities within global health security responses. It is not enough to monitor the health and health resources needed for the general population as those alone can hide large disparities among subgroups of people and undermine a solidarity response.

For civil society and communities:


for meaningful inclusion of civil society and communities in global, regional, and national decision-making on health security programs, policies, and resources.


with current global health security initiatives such as the Pandemic Fund, the Pandemic Accord, International Health Regulation Reform, and National Health Action Plans.


the message that national security cannot be the primary justification for global health security decisions. This approach is not only unsustainable, but also unjust. Instead, our collective well-being requires an approach that reaches across sectors, communities and countries, with health and social justice at its core.

Hear FROM GHC members & PARTNERS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTH EQUITY & global health security

Jackline Kiare, Regional Programme Manager, Amref Health Africa
David Bryden, Director, Frontline Health Workers Coalition
Dr. Laura Hoemeke, Global Health Consultant & Adjunct Professor UNC Gillings School of Public Health
Sara Anderson, Executive Director of the Bay Area Global Health Alliance
Jamie Bay Nishi, Executive Director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition
Waiswa Nkwanga, Coordinator of the Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030
Danielle Heiberg, Senior Congressional Liaison, WaterAid America
Jackline Kiare, Regional Programme Manager, Amref Health Africa
Dr. Laura Hoemeke, Global Health Consultant & Adjunct Professor UNC Gillings School of Public Health