Security and public health

Burnet Institute

18 January, 2019

Image: Courtesy Pixabay

Burnet Institute Program Director, Health Security, Dr Ben Coghlan is a co-author of a commentary in The Lancet calling for greater engagement between the security and public health sectors.

The researchers believe that police and security services should seek to work in conjunction with health authorities, rather than being seen as intruders, and they warn of potentially heavy costs in terms of lives and financially if segregation of the sectors continues.

The Lancet commentary notes that progress has been slow to promote partnerships across public security, public health and civil society as recommended by International Health Regulations.

“The lack of attention to this cross-sector approach to pandemic preparedness and response contrasts with planning for other large-scale disasters, and ignores the interface between public security agencies and operational and geographical aspects of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats,” Dr Coghlan and his co-authors write.

“Unlocking the organisational, operational and human resource potential of public security agencies could strengthen national and regional health security preparedness and response systems.”

The authors, led by University of Melbourne epidemiologist Dr Nick Thomson, reference a broad range of case studies to illustrate the feasibility of health and security partnerships, and recommend an expansion of the evidence base to develop implementation strategies, and new cost-effectiveness studies of pilot programs.

“Public health policy makers … must accept the legitimate place of the security sector in health rather than denounce the securitisation of health,” the authors write.

“Equally the security sector apparatus must recognise their influence in preserving and creating environments for health service and human rights protections, as well as their capacity to interrupt and undermine important public health interventions.”

Read the commentary, Harnessing synergies at the interface of public health and the security sector, and the two-paper Lancet series on Security and public health.

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Doctor Ben Coghlan

Leave of absence till Feb 2023




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