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Victor W. Sidel and Barry S. Levy

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Security and Public Health

Sidel and Levy point to the limitations of even appropriate treatment of disease when de-linked from primary prevention strategies that address the full range of challenges to biosecurity. Disease prevention is inextricably connected to the promotion of health-protective practices on a global scale. Thus, the authors conclude that a comprehensive strategy for biosecurity requires addressing core issues of hunger, poverty, housing, clean water, sanitation, etc. The view of global security promoted by Sidel and Levy includes two components: “human security” and “international security.” The authors proceed from use of the term “human security” by the United Nations Development Program to include “protection from the threat of disease, hunger, unemployment, crime, social conflict, political repression, and environmental hazards.” They couple human security with “international security,” which encompasses the prevention of war and the right of all nations to live in peace. This constitutes an alternative vision to the proposals on biosecurity the George W. Bush administration has pursued regarding “Homeland Security.” Such proposals rest on the assumption that the United States can create a perpetually safe haven within its own borders. Underscoring the fundamental flaws in this supposition are the facts that humans live in an increasingly interconnected world with finite resources, have no “backyard” in which to place an ever-burgeoning toxic waste-stream, and have actively ensured the dispersal of the capabilities to institute global violence from a variety of increasingly lethal technologies. Consistent with its potentially fatal assumption, when the U.S. has dealt at all with impending threats facing its own population, such as those from biological agents, it has chosen reactive preparedness strategies that benefit the high-tech edge of the evolving “military-industrial complex,” rather than addressing more fundamental, “primary” forms of prevention that are central to good public health practices.

terrorism, public health, biosecurity, United Nations

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 29, No. 3 (2002): 108-119