Infectious disease outbreaks and other emerging global health threats are occurring with increasing frequency and severity. Factors such as globalization, urbanization, climate change, and the ease of travel and trade mean that dangerous pathogens are more easily transported and spread around the world, with no regard for national boundaries. As seen with recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika, infectious diseases that were traditionally thought to impact only non-U.S. regions now have direct consequences for the health of Americans.
Strong health systems in high-, middle-, and low-income countries are all vital for detecting, preventing, and responding to natural and man-made biological threats that jeopardize global and American health. In turn, because global health threats affect economies worldwide, strong health systems also support economic growth, helping to ensure that vital progress in economic development made with U.S. foreign aid is not reversed.
GHSA is a first step in mobilizing the international community behind a common set of global health security principles; it provides countries with a roadmap for strengthening their capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats. Member countries have identified 11 GHSA Action Packages, designed to translate political support into concrete steps toward health security. Action Packages are led and implemented by countries focused on antimicrobial resistance; zoonotic diseases; biosafety and biosecurity; immunizations; national laboratory systems; real-time surveillance; reporting; health work force development; emergency operations centers; links between rapid responses by legal, multisectoral, and public health organizations; as well as medical countermeasures and personnel deployment. More than 80 countries have voluntarily conducted a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) to assess their capacity for health security, to identify and prioritize their greatest areas of need, and to engage with potential partners for support. GHSA demonstrates an international commitment to global health security and a mechanism through which related U.S. investments can leverage further investments and action from partner countries.
Public investments in global health security and in GHSA also leverage support and action from the private sector. Private sector companies have made valuable efforts to support stronger health security in countries around the world; these businesses also offer unique efficiencies and capabilities for mobilizing resources, scaling efforts, and innovating solutions.
Future outbreaks and new strains of disease will always be on the horizon, while other threats such as drug and antibiotic resistance are currently on the rise. In addition, weak health systems can open the door for unintentional or intentional misuse of dangerous pathogens and biological materials. Terrorists continue to be interested in pursuing weapons of mass destruction, while rapid advances in technology enable the creation and manipulation of pathogens with pandemic potential.
Strong health systems with robust detection, response, and prevention capabilities — including sustained research and development for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics — are not only critical to preventing and mitigating health crises, but to fulfilling routine health care functions that promote healthy, prosperous societies.