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“The Ebola outbreak has resuscitated interest in global health security” suggested Fidler in the Lancet feature on lessons learnt from Ebola (in Heymann et al. 2015). Whilst this resuscitation may have led to increased interest in global health security, the COVID-19 pandemic has comprehensively demonstrated that most countries are still not prepared for severe infectious disease outbreaks (WHO 2020).

Global health security is defined by the WHO as “the activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimize vulnerability to acute public health events that endanger the collective health of populations living across geographical regions and international boundaries” (2007). This broad definition illuminates the threats that global health security seeks to combat, but blandly obscures the ethical controversies and inevitable political tensions between different countries’ views about the nature and scope of global health security.

Frances’ doctorate, which she started at the Ethox Centre in 2019, explores ethical issues related to global health security in the context of acute infectious disease outbreaks. A critical interpretive review of the literature initially undertaken indicated that a) global health security is a contested definition and enterprise that many authors perceive as not living up to ideals of justice, solidarity, equity and beneficence due to its focus on protecting the Global North, and b) that there is a normative and empirical gap exploring the definition and limits of global health security.

Frances’ research uses an empirical ethics methodology to undertake an in-depth framing of the area via qualitative data collection.  Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with public health or policy professionals who currently or previously identify as being involved in global health security or working in related areas in the context of acute infectious disease outbreaks (including from public health, government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), think tanks, and academia). The aimed outcome of this research is to develop and defend a coherent and practically-grounded account of how GHS should be understood, and produce and justify recommendations on how GHS should be organised and practiced.

This DPhil is supervised by Professor Michael Parker and Associate Professor Patricia Kingori, and is supported by a Wellcome Trust Fellowship for Health Professionals in Humanities and Social Science.

References:

Heymann, D. L., Chen, L., Takemi, K., Fidler, D. P., Tappero, J. W,  Thomas, M. J. et al. 2015. Global health security: the wider lessons from the west African Ebola virus disease epidemic. Lancet 385(9980):1884-1901.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2020. The best time to prevent the next pandemic is now: countries join voices for better emergency preparedness. Online. Available from URL: https://www.who.int/news/item/01-10-2020-the-best-time-to-prevent-the-next-pandemic-is-now-countries-join-voices-for-better-emergency-preparedness.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2007. Global public health security in the 21st Century: A safer future. Geneva: World Health Organization.