US Global Health and National Security by Harley Feldbaum

     Harley Feldbaum examines the relationship between global health and US national security.  He looks at how movement across international borders, from other countries to the United States and vice versa, makes it increasingly easier for individuals to be exposed to “infectious diseases” and “bioterrorism” and how this can be a direct threat to the “national security” of the United States.     

     Feldbaum discusses how the US has responded to the global prevalence of infectious diseases and bioterrorism .  He cautions against primarily focusing only on the more prominent and newsworthy diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis and not focusing enough on such global health issues as “maternal child health” and “neglected tropical diseases”.  Additionally, Feldbaum contends that the US needs to safeguard against having a solely US centric perspective and not having enough of a global centric perspective when looking at the impact of infectious diseases on national security.  To support the aforementioned he looks at how the US reacted to the global HIV and AIDS epidemic in relation to national security during former president Clinton’s administration.  He states “while the HIV/AIDS  pandemic has done grave harm…to the functioning of weak and vulnerable states, the political destabilization that was predicted early in this decade did not come to pass”.

     Feldbaum also examines the power differential that exists between lower-income and higher income countries and how this disparity becomes magnified when there is a major global health concern.  He discusses the avian influenza outbreak and the relationship between the WHO and Indonesia.  When Indonesia realized that the “virus samples” that it gave the WHO were being used to develop medicine that the Indonesian people would not have the economic power to purchase it decided to stop giving the WHO samples.  I think that Indonesia realized that although it did not have the economic power of its wealthier counterparts it did have something else that these countries wanted and therefore Indonesia used that desired thing as their bargaining chip.  I suspect that if Indonesia believed that its people would have had equitable and affordable access to the medicine then it would not have withheld the virus samples. 

      Feldbaum advocates for the US to develop within its foreign policy more sustainable global health practices that reflect “that the health of the United States is tied to the health of other countries” and that “U.S.-led, multilateral efforts to incentivize countries to share virus samples and to detect and report outbreaks of bioterrorism and infectious diseases are needed”.

____Wendy Park


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