U.S. investments in global health security fortify countries’ ability to identify global disease threats at their source, strengthen health systems to quickly respond when they arise, and prevent outbreaks from spreading beyond borders. However, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights gaps in pandemic preparedness, as well as how outbreaks have significant effects on basic health system services and functions.
The U.S. must build on global political, diplomatic and financial investments in global health security at home and abroad, while continuing to develop the tools required to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases, including biological threats. U.S. government support for global health security is provided largely through accounts within the U.S. Agency for International Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and Department of State.
Individual countries’ governments cannot fight new and emerging disease threats in a vacuum. Success depends on collaborative and comprehensive efforts across multiple sectors and nations — made by donor and recipient governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, academia and civil society — all working toward mutually agreed-upon measurable targets and goals, such as those outlined by the Global Health Security Agenda, or GHSA.
Increase global health security programming at USAID and CDC that will strengthen vulnerable health systems abroad. Strong health systems are vital for outbreak prevention, detection and response, and to support health systems during an outbreak. This support should include resources for infrastructure projects, workforce development, and technical assistance needed to effectively reduce risk and fill potential gaps in the health system.
Continue to support U.S. engagement in GHSA so that meaningful action, political will and financing strategies are able to fill existing gaps in health security and to advance national and international action plans. This should include robust funding for U.S. engagement, including full support for all departments and agencies that advance global health security, including USAID and CDC, along with the departments of State, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services.
Ensure that research and development for new vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and other health tools are prioritized in all global health security, pandemic and emergency response strategies. Emerging infectious disease is a perpetual challenge; the tools needed to respond to the next epidemic require sustainable, forward-thinking investments in global health R&D and strengthened supply chains. It will be important to support initiatives like COVAX, which aims to provide innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by developing and manufacturing a wide range of vaccine candidates, and negotiating their price.
Codify Executive Order 13747, “Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda to Achieve a World Safe and Secure From Infectious Disease Threats,” through legislative action to establish the Global Health Security Agenda Interagency Review Council at the National Security Council. The establishment of an interagency council will allow for better coordination of U.S. engagement and efforts in the GHSA as well as response to outbreaks.
Photo Credit: Misa Rahantason-MSH A health worker administers a COVID19 test in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Emerging global health threats, including infectious disease outbreaks are occurring with increasing frequency and severity, bringing countries and economies to near standstills. Diseases know no borders and if outbreaks are not contained at their source, they can spread quickly due to global travel and trade, urbanization, weather changes and rapid advances in technology. Outbreaks have the potential to kill millions, cost billions and exacerbate political instability.
We know that a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere. Investments in strong health systems in high-, middle- and low-income countries are vital for detecting, preventing and responding to biological threats that can and have jeopardized global and American health. In turn, strong health systems promote the stability that is the basis for strong economic growth. In short, healthy countries are stable countries, allowing for more effective U.S. foreign investment in the future.
Nefarious actors continue to show interest in using pathogens as weapons of mass destruction. Through multilateral efforts such as the GHSA, Biological Weapons Convention, and the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540, the U.S. is safer and more secure as countries develop and sustain health security systems. As countries develop robust biosafety and biosecurity capacities and strengthen their health systems, these pathogenic threats can be reduced despite advances in technology that make harnessing their power easier.
Strong health systems with robust detection, response and prevention capabilities — including sustained R&D for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics — are critical not only for preventing and mitigating current and future public health crises, but for fulfilling routine health care functions that promote healthy, prosperous societies.
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Giving children the best possible start in life through Go-Baby-Go. World Vision has integrated child psychosocial stimulation and care within its nutrition programmes to enhance child development outcomes, such as cognitive behaviour and development.