Health and foreign policy in question: the case of humanitarian action
Health has gained recognition as a foreign policy concern in recent years. Political leaders increasingly address global health problems within their international relations agendas. The confluence of health and foreign policy has opened these issues to analysis that helps clarify the tenets and determinants of this linkage, offering a new framework for international health policy. Yet as health remains profoundly bound to altruistic values, caution is required before generalizing about the positive outcomes of merging international health and foreign policy principles. In particular, the possible side-effects of this framework deserve further consideration.
This paper examines the interaction of health and foreign policy in humanitarian action, where public health and foreign policy are often in direct conflict. Using a case-based approach, this analysis shows that health and foreign policy need not be at odds in this context, although there are situations where altruistic and interest-based values compete. The hierarchy of foreign policy functions must be challenged to avoid misuse of national authority where health interventions do not coincide with national security and domestic interests.