It is a weary but the factual point that the post-Cold War world is a composite place. Cold War has been supplanted by something that is not war but certainly is not peace. In this scenario the policymaking and intelligence challenges are far more complicated. Of all the intelligence challenges in the post-Cold War world, health issues are evolving as among the utmost importance. Policymakers are acknowledging that infectious diseases, climate change, pollution, health systems’ collapse, and misuse of science and technology all signify instability and fascinating epochs. Correspondingly, we never thought about the connection between health and national security but, the severity of the global CoVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our minds.
The new 21st century threats necessitate us to transition from building tanks, missiles and aircrafts to deploying soft-power approaches, developing cutting edge technology and cyber capabilities, together with robust and efficient laboratories. Factually, when government evaluates threats to national security and capacity to address them, looks to intelligence. Therefore, there are many dimensions of such intelligence, for instance cyber, border, transportation, global and public health etc. In Pakistan, where the GDP spend on health has remained an abysmally lower compared to other countries in the region, the question then is how can Pakistan deal with the health security challenges, alone cope with novel viruses and pandemics?
Pakistan’s score on Global Health Security Index overall is 35.5 out of 100, and ranks 105 out of 195 states. Consequently, to effectively develop policymakers’ attention, Pakistan need to setup active system of health intelligence, where impending health threats are identified early, and controlled locally. Health intelligence should be accompanied with capacities and resources for early and effective controls. That is going to require different thought processes, new teams who could think beyond the horizon, have legal mandate to recognize and eradicate potential national health threats. Since health intelligence is receiving high levels of attention, the assessment must be done by people with medical and life sciences backgrounds. The concept of health intelligence is crucial to focusing the fundamental role of government to keep its citizens save and secure. As a result, security is dependent on intelligence, and public health is dependent on health intelligence.
Health intelligence steadily evolved as the discipline during Gulf War and turned out to be more established during CoVID-19 pandemic. It generally includes the development of knowledge via compiling and analyzing health data from multiple sources so that it can be used to take actions. Health intelligence provides evidence on determinants and patterns of health and disease and on the functioning of the healthcare system. The activities of health intelligence include monitoring and producing reports on population-based health status, health situation analysis, health equity analysis, health impact assessment, health economic analysis, health technology assessments and clinical guidelines. Health intelligence also uses health surveillance data to add value and meaning, like any other intelligence, is developed through a systematic manner that involves cyclic assessment of critical information, the procedure is called the health intelligence cycle. Health intelligence is a organized activity that is an essential component of the health system, exceptionally important in bioterrorism and health security.
In Pakistan, health intelligence should be a essential part of national security, along with other specialties, such as counterterrorism, counterespionage, and cybersecurity etc. Particularly in the case of a future national security catastrophe deriving from either spontaneous or deliberate spread of infectious agents. National security requires that we continue to enhance our health intelligence work and add new tools to mitigate emerging threats. Firstly, we need scientific and medically astute eyes and ears around the world in areas subject to health security and infectious diseases. Secondly, we should also rapidly and broadly deploy the latest tools and technologies to enhance our early detection and warning systems.
As a final point, Pakistan should use a policy framework to strengthen its resilience to future pandemics, action that squarely falls within the mandate of Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and its provincial and local counterparts, and Pakistan’s security and intelligence community. The CoVID-19 pandemic necessitates heretical thinking and unfolding a wake-up call to the Government of Pakistan about the new nature of national security threats, and the intelligence needed to meet them, during the coming age of globalized challenges. As with all other national security threats, anticipating and understanding the health intelligence will require decent intellect. Health intelligence will require a different kind of aptitude than hitherto existing. A reorientation of national security policy on the basis of risk as opposed to threat would be a sensible way forward. The need for a new approach to national security embedded in a new national health intelligence must be one of the outcomes of the terrible experience of the current pandemic, to ready us for the next.