Health and Global Security

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 2:00 - 5:00 pm ONLINE


This is an LBJ School course, cross-listed with the Law School. This course will be taught online. Contact LBJ if you have questions about how the course will be taught.

This course examines the security challenges posed by disease in different nations and regions of the world.  After the Second World war the availability of antibiotics led many to believe that we could develop magic pharmaceutical bullets for all diseases.  The introduction of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant treatments in the 1950s promised cures for serious mental and emotional illness.  Newer versions of those treatments are constantly being developed.  During the 20th Century life expectancy at birth and at older ages increased rapidly in all nations, although significant differences between the developing and developed nations persist.

Although modern medicine has been fabulously successful at treating and even curing acute disease, our initial hope that bacteria, viruses, and fungi could be completely defeated today seems naive.  COVID-19 is only the most recent reminder that we cannot become complacent.  Other disease such as Ebola, Marburg, Chikungunya virus, West Nile, and Hanta viruses are only a few of the diseases with high mortality rates that plague Humanity.  Each year we are introduced to new viruses that arise from animal reservoirs.  Although antibiotics led us to become confident that we could defeat bacterial illnesses, drug resistant strains of old killers pose major risks to humanity.  The scourges of Tuberculosis, syphilis, and other killers threaten the lives of millions of people.

The fear of disease has plagued humanity since the beginning.  The Black Death destroyed huge fractions of the nations of Europe on several occasions.  Disease has often changed the course of human history.  The Spaniard’s conquest of Mexico in the 16th Century resulted largely from the fact that they introduced smallpox into a population without immunity.  The Aztec population and empire were largely decimated. 

In this course we will examine the nature of disease and its impact on developing and developed societies.  In a highly urbanized and globalized world diseases that originate in one locality can within weeks and months become global pandemics.  Pandemics, such as COVID 19, pose serious threats to local and national economies, and can exacerbate existing conflicts among different groups.  Illness, then, represents as serious a potential threat to our personal, family, community, and national security as weapons of mass destruction. 

In this class we will examine the potential security threats posed by diseases like COVID 19 and investigate how nations respond to those threats.  We will review the economic, political, and social costs of illness for individuals, institutions, governments, nations, and the world as a whole.  We will become amateur epidemiologists and learn how disease spreads and how organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other national and multilateral organizations respond to diseases that do not respect national borders.

Assignments include a policy issue project (40%), case study analyses (20%), and briefings (20%). Attendance and participation are integral parts of the course and will count towards the final grade (20%). 


Important Class Changes

Date Updated
11/11/2020 Instructor(s) updated
Course is cross listed