Population, Health and Security

The Population, Health and Security node examines security challenges that may or may not contain a military dimension, such as natural infectious disease threats (e.g. HIV/AIDS and pandemic influenza), biological weapons and biosecurity, unregulated population movements, and demographic transitions.

Chair: Curson

Members: Barthwal-Datta, Connolly

Infectious Disease, Security and Risk

Focusing on the relationship between health, infectious disease and national security, this project is largely based on the recognition that health has become a major international issue transcending national boundaries. Issues such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, XDR-TB and antibiotic resistance, climate change, population structure and mobility, force us to reconsider the traditional definitions of security. The aim of this project is to build a better understanding of the relationship between health and security in a globalised world. A related aim is to investigate Australia's preparedness for emerging epidemics, the dissonance between how experts and the general public perceive risk, and the role of the media in defining and presenting health issues related to emerging infections.

Epidemic Crises and Human behaviour

This project intends to assess the significance of infectious disease in recent Australian history. Concentrating on a series of major epidemics, it seeks to throw light on the interconnections and relationships between the biophysical environment and human behaviour, the social and spatial dynamics of transmission and diffusion, and the way society reacted and responded to such events. In particular it is interested in exploring the psycho-social dimensions of epidemics. An important part of this study is the reconstruction of the diffusion, social and economic impacts of three of Australia's most significant dengue epidemics. All were major crises in Australia's public health and had widespread effects on Australian social and economic life. Dengue remains an important issue for Australia's contemporary public health and epidemics are a regular feature of parts of Northern Queensland. Climate change holds considerable implications for the disease and may result in the mosquito vector increasing its geographical distribution. This study aims to show how lessons from the past are valuable in addressing current and future epidemic crises.

Security after SARS: Regional Cooperation against Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Focusing on fast-moving, naturally-occurring infectious disease threats facing the Asia-Pacific region, this project explores cooperative responses by developing and developed countries. It examines challenges facing the national health systems of China and Australia and assesses possibilities for enhanced cooperative responses to infectious disease threats via the World Health Organization and Asia-Pacific regional institutions.

Twenty-First Century Pandemic: the Ethics and Dilemmas of Securitizing Influenza

The prospect of pandemic influenza touches the security nerve of people and politicians in ways that set this disease apart from the many others that may be regarded simply as health issues. A pandemic virus would potentially cause illness and death on a large scale, but that alone is not what excites political attention. Diseases other than influenza exact a great human toll-most notably HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria-but they do so in a slow-acting and relatively familiar manner. By contrast, the effects of an influenza pandemic would be swift and unfamiliar. This in turn could generate levels of societal dread and disruption vastly disproportionate to the likelihood that any given individual would become infected and die. This project assesses the nature and extent of the threat posed by the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the value of measures currently underway or under consideration to prevent or mitigate a global human influenza outbreak. At the national and international levels, this pandemic threat could be securitized by implementing emergency responses beyond what would normally be politically acceptable. The challenge is to do so in a manner consistent with public health ethics and without generating additional security concerns.

Regional Health and Global Security: the Asian Cradle of Pandemic Influenza

Australia's own region is a pandemic epicentre. The last two pandemics, the 1957 'Asian flu' and the 1968 'Hong Kong flu', originated here and East Asia is likely to remain a cradle of emerging diseases in the future. This project provides a conceptual explanation of why and how pandemic influenza may be characterised as a security threat. The epidemiology of the H5N1 avian influenza virus is highly relevant to this assessment, as is the likely reaction to a pandemic by states and the people who live within them. The bulk of the project is devoted to analysing the nexus, as regards the threat of pandemic influenza, between regional health and global security.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biosecurity

This project is a collaboration with academics at the ANU National Centre for Biosecurity and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security. It aims to produce an edited volume which synthesises different disciplinary perspectives on biosecurity. For the purposes of this project, biosecurity challenges include: fast-moving infectious disease outbreaks of natural origin; biological weapons threats; the risks associated with research on pathogenic micro-organisms; and the impact of disease on health governance, state functioning and the economy. Topics addressed in the edited volume are likely to include: Australia and smallpox; genetically-modified microorganisms as bioterror threats; international law and regional biosecurity; nanotechnology in biosecurity surveillance; public health, security and multidisciplinary expertise; bioethics and biosecurity; methods for dealing with complexity in biosecurity.