Biosecurity in the Global Age: Biological Weapons, Public Health, and the Rule of Law

By David P. Fidler; Lawrence O. Gostin | Go to book overview

4
THE SECURITIZATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH

I. INTRODUCTION

Our definition of biosecurity—society's collective responsibility to safeguard the population from dangers presented by pathogenic microbes—asserts something that, conceptually and historically, is radical. This definition maintains that the policy worlds of public health and security are interdependent, and the definition connects to our arguments that integrating security and public health is central to biosecurity governance. But, as one of us previously observed, “In the not too distant past, attempts to connect public health and national security would have raised eyebrows and perhaps condescending sympathy from experts in both fields” (Fidler 2003a, 787). The emergence of biosecurity reveals that the days when public health and security never intersected as governance tasks have ended.

The convergence of security and public health has produced the “securitization of public health” (Kelle 2005a, 2005b). Securitization means that the theory and practice of public health are increasingly considered in security terms. Linking public health to different concepts of security became ubiquitous in the past decade, whether discourse focused on homeland, national, collective, global, or human security. These linkages revealed a widespread belief that securitizing public health was a productive strategy to achieve greater protection from pathogenic threats (Fidler 2007a). A critical aspect of the securitization process involved elevating public health as political priority in domestic governance, foreign policy, and international diplomacy.

The securitization phenomenon represents one of the most important

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