Health, security and foreign policy

Colin McInnes, Kelley Lee

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Over the past decade, health has become an increasingly important international issue and one which has engaged the attention of the foreign and security policy community. This article examines the emerging relationship between foreign and security policy, and global public health. It argues that the agenda has been dominated by two issues – the spread of selected infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS) and bio-terror. It argues that this is a narrow framing of the agenda which could be broadened to include a wider range of issues. We offer two examples: health and internal instability, including the role of health in failing states and in post-conflict reconstruction; and illicit activities. We also argue that the relationship between global public health, and foreign and security policy has prioritised the concerns of the latter over the former – how selected health issues may create risks for (inter)national security or economic growth. Moreover the interests of the West are prominent on this agenda, focusing (largely though not exclusively) on how health risks in the developing world might impact upon the West. It is less concerned with the promotion of global public health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2006


  • health and foreign policy
  • health and security


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