Dr. Eric Noji, former Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Program for the Center of Disease Control (CDC) made the link between disease and national security for over 50 students and faculty on Thursday, January 26th.
Co-sponsored by the Humanitarian Assistance Certificate program, the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy, and the Global Health Affairs Certificate program at the Josef Korbel School, the talk, titled Global Security: Challenges for Public Health Action, chronicled the issues of a possible disease epidemic and the problems of government preparedness.
Dr. Noji noted that public health and disease prevention has been a large part of foreign policy, but that the focus should also be at home. Drawing on his experiences with the Anthrax scare of 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Dr. Noji highlighted the pitfalls of government responses to those events. He specifically noted that media relations and the inability to accept foreign aid were problems.
“This was help that we needed, but didn’t know how to accept,” said Noji, noting one anecdote about a foreign medical team left at an airport. In terms of the media, he noted that public health is not medical care, but is in fact for the public.
“Our patient is the community, and we need to be able to communicate with them,” he said.
While over 25 percent of the CDC budget goes to combating bioterrorism, Noji said the real concern and focus should be on prevention of disasters of disease. He predicted the next disaster would be transnational due to the ease of movement around the world.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Noji, quoting a Benjamin Franklin. The link between public health and national security is real, said Noji, and special attention should be paid to its prevention as a security issue.
-Sarah Crozier, MA Candidate, International Development
Josef Korbel School of International Studies