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I. Global Health: A Matter of National Interest?
It is axiomatic that infectious diseases do not respect national borders. But this simple truth does not convey the degree to which pathogens migrate great distances to pose health hazards everywhere. Human beings congregate and travel, live in close proximity to animals, pollute the environment, and rely on overtaxed health systems. This constant cycle of congregation, consumption, and movement allows infectious diseases to mutate and spread across populations and boundaries. The global population is also vulnerable to bioterrorism—the deliberate manipulation and dispersal of pathogens. These human activities, and many more, have profound health consequences for people in all parts of the world, and no country can insulate itself from the effects. The world’s community is interdependent and reliant on one another for health security.
This brief description about the inexorable spread of disease across countries and continents might well lead to the conclusion that global health is in every nation’s interest. Indeed, a compelling case can be made that large-scale health hazards have such catastrophic consequences for the health of the populace, the economy, and national security that international cooperation is a matter of vital State interest. The relationship between extremely poor health and dire economic and political consequences is far too complex to be expressed in simple cause and effect terms. Instead, it can be explained by how poor health contributes to State instability and how State instability, in turn, creates the conditions for poor health.