Securitizing Global Health: A View from Maternal Health

Laura Baringer and Steve Heitkamp

Over the last 15 years public health challenges have increasingly been framed as security threats, arguably leading to increased political relevancy and funding for such public health challenges as HIV/AIDS. While maternal health has not yet been securitized, there are several reasons to believe that it could be in the future. Such a securitization of maternal health could increase funding and political relevancy, important for improving maternal health outcomes. At the same time, we believe there are many unconsidered risks of such an approach. The risks we have identified are long-term unknowns from a lack of research, increased politicization of aid at the expense of effective programs, unexpected funding challenges due to geopolitical priorities, gender concerns, and the blurring of civilian and military institutions. Our goal is not to present a structured framework for analyzing the securitization of maternal health, but to begin a debate about the positive and negative aspects of securitization, and the dangers of securitization that we believe have been inadequately considered to date.