Health security


    Global public health security is defined as the activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimize the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger people’s health across geographical regions and international boundaries.

    Population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and the misuse of antimicrobials are disrupting the equilibrium of the microbial world. New diseases, like COVID-19, are emerging at unprecedented rates disrupting people’s health and causing social and economic impacts. Billions of passengers travel on airplanes each year, increasing the opportunities for the rapid international spread of infectious agents and their vectors.

    Dependence on chemicals has increased, as has awareness of the potential hazards for health and the environment, like climate change and air pollution. As the globalization of food production increases, so does the risk of tainted ingredients and risk of foodborne diseases. As the world’s population becomes more mobile and increases its economic interdependence, these global health threat increase and traditional defences at national borders cannot protect against the invasion of a disease or vector.

    Pandemics, health emergencies and weak health systems not only cost lives but pose some of the greatest risks to the global economy and security faced today.


    WHO response

    WHO’s mission is to help all countries fulfil their duty of safety and care to their citizens, especially to the poorest and most vulnerable. This is the goal of global public health security: to demonstrate how collective international public health action can build a safer future for humanity.

    WHO Member States face increasing numbers of emergencies with health consequences from all hazards, including infectious disease outbreaks, conflicts, natural disasters, chemical or radio-nuclear spills and food contamination. Many emergencies can be complex, with more than one cause, and can have significant public health, social, economic and political impacts. WHO has specific responsibilities and accountabilities for emergency operations under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) and within the global humanitarian system as the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) Global Health Cluster Lead Agency.

    WHO's health security interface works with involving international organizations, civil defense, military doctors, law enforcement and armed forces. The Secretariat advocates for the role of public health in the security sector, increase WHO preparedness and response to deliberate events and provides awareness about health security internationally.


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