Securitising health: Australian newspaper coverage of pandemic influenza

Niamh Stephenson*, Michelle Jamieson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


This paper analyses contemporary Australian newspaper coverage of the threat of pandemic influenza in humans, specifically in the light of recent transformations in biomedical and public health understandings of infectious disease as continuously emerging. Our analysis suggests that the spectre of pandemic influenza is characterised, in newspaper accounts, as invoking a specific form of nation building. The Australian nation is depicted as successfully securing itself in the face of a threat from Asia (and in the absence of an effective international health body). What is described in newspaper accounts reflects a shift in the public health response to infectious disease. This response does not entail a direct focus on protecting either the population or national territory. Instead, it involves the continuous rehearsal of readiness to react to disasters through the networking of government and private agencies responsible for maintaining critical infrastructure. In this way, coverage of pandemic influenza positions health as central to national security, with little reporting of the reasons for or the potential implications of this alliance. Thus, the imperative to 'be prepared' is presented as self-evident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-539
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Emerging infectious disease
  • National
  • Pandemic influenza
  • Preparedness
  • Securitisation of health
  • Transnational


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