Health Security and Foreign Policy

Authored by: Joshua Michaud

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


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Foreign policy has recently become more focused on issues of health. The traditional concerns of foreign policy such as national security, military, and economic power continue to drive and shape how countries engage internationally, but in recent years health has become a more prominent component of this engagement. The trend is the result of a combination of factors. For one, it is now conventional wisdom among policy makers and political leaders that health issues can and do impact the traditional security and economic concerns that are the focus of foreign policy. In addition, the ongoing process of globalization, trade liberalization, and international migration have contributed to a growing global interdependence, which has meant countries are increasingly vulnerable to threats that emerge elsewhere, including health threats. These links have perhaps been most vividly illustrated through the actions and reactions to a number of high-profile infectious disease outbreaks in the recent past, but the overlap between health and foreign policy extends beyond simply worrying about the next outbreak and now encompasses security and military engagements, trade and economic policy, and many other areas. In addition to using foreign engagement to address perceived threats, many countries are using overseas health engagement as a tool to create and take advantage of foreign policy opportunities, in areas such as conflict resolution, stabilization, counterterrorism, and others. Still, given the growing overlap, there remain concerns that linking health with foreign policy can lead to unresolvable tensions and can actually undermine global efforts to improve health. There remains an open question about which set of objectives – global public health objectives or self-centered states’ foreign policy objectives – should drive such engagement and should take precedence when tension arises between the two.

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