The Politics of Disease: Governance and Emerging Infections

Elizabeth M. Prescott

Infectious disease outbreaks demand a timely and proportional response. The responsibility for this action falls to those with the power to harness the processes and systems by which a society operates in order to effect the changes necessary to limit transmission of an illness. Controlling emerging and reemerging infectious diseases can require extreme actions and coordination between many national and international actors making the ability to respond a reflection of the capacity of a governing system. In the absence of good governance, opportunities are created for disease to emerge, while at the same time, an aggressive response is often hindered. Failures in governance in the face of infectious disease outbreaks can result in challenges to social cohesion, economic performance and political legitimacy. Overall, the need for coordination of actions despite a high degree of uncertainty and high costs makes curtailing infectious disease a challenge in the absence of good governance.