Global Health Security: Closing the Gaps in Responding to Infectious Disease Emergencies

Jennifer B. Nuzzo and Gigi Kwik Gronvall

Rising concerns about the human, political, and economic costs of emerging infectious disease threats and deliberate epidemics have highlighted the important connection between global public health and security. This realization has led security communities, particularly in the U.S., to seek ways to bolster the international health response to public health emergencies as a means of protecting national security. While there have been important recent efforts to strengthen international response to infectious disease threats, there are areas that deserve more attention from both the health and security communities. In this article, we describe two important gaps in international frameworks that govern the response to global public health threats which can negatively affect the security of states: (1) despite attempts to strengthen international rules for responding to public health emergencies, there continues to be strong disincentives for states to report disease outbreaks; and (2) systems for detecting and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases are hindered by a lack of standards of practice for sharing biological samples and specimens. To address these gaps in global governance of infectious disease threats, additional incentives are needed for states to report disease outbreaks to the international community; there should be greater enforcement of countries’ international health obligations; and both political and scientific communities should develop workable practice standards for sharing biological samples of all types.