Over the years, it seems to have been the history of the global public health / US national security “movement”, so to speak, to have focused on communicable infectious diseases. The idea was to quickly resolve the incidence of the disease to help prevent any contagion that may impact the US’s interests. The goals consisted of short-term solutions to finding the quickest, cheapest and most broadly implementable ways to tackle and overcome these diseases. However, with chronic non-communicable diseases on the rise in middle-and low-income countries, a change in the thinking and the approach, from short-term to long-term, is long overdue. In the article “Strategic Implications of Global Health” by the National Intelligence Council (2008), the authors list several outcomes that are beneficial to both national security as well as to the health and economic recovery of low- and middle-income countries. Some of the outcomes discussed include “easing North-South tensions”, “soothing relations with adversaries”, “reconstruction and stabilization” and “advancing economic development.” These outcomes can be viewed as win-win situations for all stakeholders participating and bringing to fruition these new ideas. However, the caveat to all of this new way of thinking is, is the US willing, or even able, to commit monetary resources to this new approach? Can the US step back and see the big picture by truly understanding the long-term benefits of focusing on chronic diseases that undermine the economic development of those countries struggling to become self-sufficient, then engage partners in a long-term commitment and move full steam ahead?
In an article on News-Medical.net, Julie Fischer, head of the Stimson Center’s Global Health Security Project, is quoted “global health programs are like a construction project. “You can’t really stop half way and come back later when you have more time and money again,” adding that starting and stopping programs can have “extraordinarily detrimental effects on building a skilled human health workforce.” The key to security is to comprehend the overall picture, to understand the interconnectedness between health and economic development, which leads to strong and self-sufficient countries and citizens, and to make the long-term commitment to lend the necessary resources.
An article by the Council on Foreign Relations, dated September 16, 2011, speaks to this very fact: