Noncommunicable Disease as a Security Issue

Authored by: Christopher Benson , Sara M. Glasgow

Routledge Handbook of Global Health Security

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415645478
eBook ISBN: 9780203078563
Adobe ISBN: 9781136155574

10.4324/9780203078563.ch15

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Abstract

Examining the place of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on the health security agenda is fundamentally a diagnosis of absence. Despite claims that the threats posed by infectious disease are distinct from traditional state-based enemies, the construction of disease as a security threat in the discourse does little to validate this argument. Rather, as this analysis demonstrates, it is the compatibility of infectious diseases with the traditional security paradigm that makes them a more conducive object of securitization than NCDs. In this chapter, we develop this argument by illustrating how such compatibility exists in three dimensions: the potential for infectious disease to be a catalyst for sociopolitical and economic transformation; the fact that it derives from organisms that may be targeted for eradication; and its immediacy as a public health threat. Such concerns mean that infectious disease fits comfortably within a traditional state-centric understanding of security. More puzzling is the fact that those who have taken a human security-based approach have exhibited a similar prioritization. By documenting the analytical and praxiological privilege that infection enjoys in the human security discourse, we demonstrate how this discourse has occluded NCDs. In so doing, we set the stage for a political critique to be articulated – specifically that there must be greater scholarly and policy urgency lent to the challenge of NCDs. While securitization is one means by which that urgency might be communicated, we do not claim this process is inevitable or even desirable; after all, the analytical tools that have framed the infectious disease threat in ways compatible with a traditional security paradigm are inappropriate for a categorically different form of illness.

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