Daily Report Global Health Conversations: National Security And Global Health

Lawmakers who are pushing for foreign aid budget cuts and placing global health and food security programs outside the realm of national security are focused on “very short-term financial gains” and, in turn, are discounting the long-term benefits of helping societies cut their disease burdens, Julie Fischer, head of the Stimson Center’s Global Health Security project, said in an interview Tuesday with the Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report’s Jaclyn Schiff.

Congress has passed several temporary measures to continue to fund the government, while debate over the fiscal year 2011 budget continues. One of the issues being debated is whether global health and related foreign aid programs are considered an issue of national security and should be exempt from major cuts.

Fischer acknowledged that lawmakers have to make “tough budget decisions,” but said those who don’t see the connection between global health and national security “have decided that the long-term benefits of these programs are difficult to measure.” Investments in global health help stabilize fragile countries and provide emerging economies with the human capital they need to become stable and grow in the long term, she said.

Fischer, who has had fellowships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Council on Foreign Relations, said global health programs are like a construction project. “You can’t really stop half way and come back later when you have more time and money again,” she said, adding that starting and stopping programs can have “extraordinarily detrimental effects on building a skilled human health workforce.” She said it’s up to leaders in the Senate who have championed these issues in the past to win over their colleagues and make the case for robust global health funding.

In the interview, Fischer discussed the different ways global health issues can affect U.S. national security interests and noted how complex it can be to address this aspect of security. “This is something that’s not amenable to a traditional security solution … you cannot invade a country to improve its health. But you can form long-term partnerships,” she said.

She also described how some regions are more likely to give rise to emerging health risks that could be of concern for U.S. national security interests.

This audio interview is part of the Daily Report’s Global Health Conversations series featuring global health thought leaders discussing topical issues pertaining to U.S. policy on global health.

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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