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Global health security (GHS) comprises of the activities required to reduce vulnerability to acute public health events, commonly infectious disease outbreaks, that affect populations across international boundaries.


One such public health threat was the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, which revealed failings in the ability of the World Health Organization to adequately respond to outbreaks of this severity.  A consequence of this was the expansion of state-led GHS programmes in countries including the US and UK. These programmes comprise of states’ actions abroad to improve national health security. As the key aims of these programmes are not just to aid the primarily low and lower-middle income countries in which they act, but to protect the states from infectious disease outbreaks that threaten their own populations, their activities can be ethically, socioculturally and politically challenging.


With the current global struggle to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, questions over the role of high-income states in GHS have only increased.  The Global North has been criticised for looking inwardly to the detriment of wider global health security needs, both by failing to provide sufficient international aid, and over suggestions that some countries are actively blocking the export of essential supplies, including personal protective gear, to locations including the Global South.


In light of these ethical questions, the research objective of this DPhil is to undertake a normative and empirical ethics account of state-led GHS programmes. Alongside a literature review and initial conceptual analysis, the main methodology utilised will be semi-structured interviews with professional stakeholders involved in the GHS enterprise.


This DPhil is supported by a Wellcome Trust Fellowship for Health Professionals in Humanities and Social Science.