Reevaluating Health Security from a Cosmopolitan Perspective

Authored by: Garrett Wallace Brown , Preslava Stoeva

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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Over the last two decades there have been intense policy debates about what is commonly called the “securitization of health.” Many scholars have argued that there is an inherent tension between policies that prioritize state security interests and those that promote human health and wider health obligations, particularly when those obligations evoke duties of justice beyond national borders. Many scholars have also suggested that this tension is systemic and irresolvable, since the current national and international order is intrinsically state-centric where domestic and foreign health policies prioritize short-term domestic needs over more long-term policies that could deliver greater longitudinal benefits to a wider population. As an interjection into this debate, this chapter posits that existing arguments about health security are obsolete and no longer fit for purpose because they focus too narrowly on responding to isolated symptoms of poor health versus mitigating wider causes. Traditional ways of thinking about health and security are problematic in how they conceptualize security and fail to take into account broader structural conditions that drive poor health in the first place. Namely, traditional views define the problems of ill-health and insecurity in narrow strategic terms, which are overly state-centric (despite their desire to break free from realist theoretical thinking) and which promote an ethos of security over an ethic of care. This ontology in turn helps to predetermine the scope of available policy options and skews political responses in a way that ignores the structural conditions of inequality and power differentials, which greatly underpin health-based insecurity.

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