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Latest News: The United Nations Hosted a High-Level Event on Human Security (17 May 2013) Read more... 


This web site is intended to introduce and provide resources on Human Security and its relationship to Public Health, both conceptually and in intervention applications—and will be updated as new material becomes available.

The United Nations Commission on Human Security report, Human Security Now (2003), points to a paradigm shift from traditional notions of nation-based security, to a people-centered security approach with the goal of supporting three essential freedoms:

  • Freedom from fear
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom to live in dignity

This is achieved through a people-centered, comprehensive, multisectoral approach for identifying critical and pervasive threats to individuals and communities, as well as for prevention focused action across two dimensions:

  • Protecting the population
  • Empowering the population to act

In the region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has embraced this people-centered human security approach and has produced various seminal documents over the last decade.  Most importantly, Directing Council Resolution CD50.R16, the first multilateral document of its kind endorsed by PAHO’s Member States in which it resolves to “…urge the Member States to continue to promote analysis of the concept of human security and its relationship with health, with a view to its incorporation into country health plans, pursuant to their national legislation, emphasizing coordination and multisectoral interagency participation to reflect the multidimensional aspects of such an approach.”  The resolution mandates the Secretariat to increase the dialogue on the concept and develop guidance for countries to implement it. 

Human Security and Public Health are deeply intertwined.  Conditions of insecurity, whether caused by sudden crises or chronic deprivations, lead to health deterioration and diminish people’s capacity to achieve and maintain their greatest level of health and wellbeing; and the direct and indirect effects of poor health, in turn, undermine the security enjoyed by individuals and communities.  Beyond its interdependence with health, human security is also a precondition for peace, state security, development and sustainability, thus it contributes significantly toward the success of efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and achieve sustainable development.

The principles and practices underlying human security and public health approaches are also deeply related.   Human security and public health both conceive of population threats broadly and seek to proactively address and prevent their root causes—often called social determinants—rather than treat their consequences.  Furthermore, the parallels between these approaches provide an aligning process to exercise the essential public health function of health promotion, and to strengthen the provision of services and the stewardship role of the public health system.  Human security aims at the satisfaction of the basic freedoms for all, and, as a consequence, it provides health an active role in development and human security.

Public health can also further advance human security by providing a natural basis for understanding the concept of human security, clearing up the concerns around its application, giving it the proper delineation from national security concerns, and illustrating its practice and added value.  Among these and other areas of synergy between public health and human security, we propose the following key areas where the functions of public health can be exercised to achieve maximum human security:

    • The practice of health promotion, which emphasizes community empowerment and capacity building at the individual, family, and community levels, as well as across sectors to strengthen assets and address the social determinants of health;
    • The focus on prevention practices which provides public health services an opportune position within the primary health care system, whose level of population access and reach is both direct and broad, and from which community members can be linked to multisectoral services:
    • And stewardship practices to protect health, such as regulation, enforcement, information gathering, and communication activities, which often involve consensus-building and multisectoral collaboration and coordination in policy development and implementation

The need to adopt and begin operationalizing health and human security approaches is driven by the complex, interrelated nature of the most pervasive insecurities currently affecting the Region of the Americas.  Threats for which health and human security’s holistic and proactive approach is necessary include, but are not limited, to:

    • Basic water and sanitation environmental threats in conjunction with toxic exposures,
    • Nutrition insecurity
    • Social gradient
    • Occupational insecurity and labor risks for children
    • The informal sector
    • Housing and unplanned urban metropolitan growth
    • Limited social protection on health
    • Pervasive violence

    There are additional  and emerging sources of insecurity in the Region that merit further attention, such as ubiquitous domestic and international migration of individuals and families  as well as  the impacts of climate change.  Important to note, disparities exist within and between populations, with vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and indigenous communities suffering disproportionately from the abovementioned and other threats to security.

    As threats to security and health become increasingly complex, the urgency of the human security approach is increasingly clear; and, health and human security as an integrated approach represents and further advances the natural progression of the Human Security concept. 

    Resources made available throughout the following sections of the Health and Human Security page are intended to provide updates on news and events, as well as resources and tools to further introduce key concepts and build understanding of the chronologic development of the Human Security concept and its relation to health. 

    For New & Events, Information from the Regional Meeting and Documents please continue reading..... 


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