Do any significant work on the DoD’s role in public health and the name “Gail Fisher” inevitably comes up. US Army Major Fisher, who holds a MPH and a MA in journalism, is (for my money) the Pentagon’s leading expert on the relationship between the military, public health, and health diplomacy. Gail knows it all. In January, unbeknownst to me, Gail launched Mendstate, a blog on health’s relationship to defense, diplomacy, and development. Each of Gail’s posts is a ~500 word, fantastically written missive on the DoD’s role in health and health diplomacy. The take away point: If you read War & Health, you should be reading her blog too.
Below are links to three of Gail’s posts and short teasers.
Working with the Minister of Public Health in Afghanistan to build the health system is admirable work, but is it legitimizing the government? Does it de-ligitimize the coalition efforts to be involved? Should only NGOs do this work? All these questions depend upon the cultural ideation of legitimacy and health institutions, I think.
Assuming that we feel it somehow a basic and shared human value (Condoleeza Rice has said something to this effect) that all people should get health care everywhere and that by extension, we should try to work toward that end, we must act with caution since apparently there is no recognizably effective method of acting. The Western world often feels that it has a moral imperative to assist with saving lives where ever and whenever it can. But does that life saved cause another life lost elsewhere?
In other words, perhaps its time that the other agencies help DoD understand that it has a talent. That helping peoples in other lands develop their public health systems might sometimes be an appropriate use of DoD resources, and an activity that will create healthier populations abroad and at home, legitimize governments, boost economies and hopefully give a good impression of America. It’s not an either-or world: that there is still enough world for both USAID and DoD and the Dept of State to do good. Instead of complaining, why not grab the bull by the horns and give it a little shake? I can only hope that the incoming political appointees will reach out and grab ahold.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.