The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Our mission is to bring together leading security and global health policy experts and practitioners to generate policy recommendations for a range of critical issues at the nexus of health and security, including health intelligence, bioterrorism, pandemics, armed conflict, climate-related disasters, and mass migration.
Drawing on expertise across Harvard University’s graduate programs, research facilities, and partnerships, we will produce collaborative research policy analysis and translation, and deliver training and service opportunities unique to the emerging field of health security.
Margaret Bourdeaux, Research Director:
Faculty at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health & Social Change and the Global Health Equity Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bourdeaux is the founder of the Threatened Health System Project. Her work focuses on how security agencies and organizations can better address health security threats and developing novel approaches to enhancing health security in crisis and conflict affected places.
Juliette Kayyem, Faculty Chair:
Faculty Chair of the Homeland Security Project, the Robert and Renée Belfer Lecturer in International Security, and co-chair of the Executive Program Global Health and Security at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She previously was Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security.
SAGH’s credibility will be built on its value added and earnest engagement with real world, urgent health-security issues. Its first research projects will include:
Health Intelligence and Disinformation: A New Weapon of Mass Destruction?
Disinformation campaigns that spread false information about vaccine safety and other public health matters can have devastating consequences as seen in recent infectious disease outbreaks across the globe. This type of weaponization of health information may be just the beginning. Hacking into health information systems and corrupting data or falsifying lab and imaging reports can undermine the credibility of health institutions and trusted providers, leaving populations effectively cut off from health systems. The SAGH Project is conducting research to characterize the scope, scale, and implications of this new type of threat.
The First Line of Defense: Preventing Health System Collapse During Crisis
A consequence of war and large natural disasters can be disruption and collapse of health systems. This sets the stage for later health security emergencies, such as outbreaks and environmental hazards. How can health systems be better supported and protected during periods of crisis and recovered more quickly? The SAGH Project is developing an Early Warning tool that can help diplomats, militaries, intelligence agencies to health development, and humanitarian responders stage interventions that can help mitigate threats to health systems.
Recent Health Security Emergencies will Inform Policy Research & Education
Investigations into health security emergencies will inform the project’s policy research and shape the development of cases used to teach SAGH’s Executive Program, Global Health & Security: An Integrated Approach to Threatened Health Systems. These investigations include military responses to Ebola outbreaks in Liberia; insecurity and distrust of health workers during the DRC Ebola outbreaks; and health system reconstruction of Haiti’s health system 10 years after the earthquake.