In today’s interconnected world, a major pandemic only takes 36 hours to spread around the globe. In recent years, repeated outbreaks of infectious diseases – from the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the global outbreak of the Coronavirus – have reinforced the importance of investments in preparedness and global health security to combat pandemics and save lives.
A new strain of Coronavirus – which originated in Wuhan, China – has spread to nearly every continent over the past month, with cases reported in nearly 30 countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, and Australia. On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared the virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, in acknowledgement of the global nature of the pandemic. As of February 21st, the disease has over 76,000 confirmed cases, with 99% of cases concentrated in China – but experts have warned that the disease could have already infected over 100,000 people. The outbreak is expected to slow global economic growth to the lowest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.
The 2019 Global Health Security Index found that no country is fully prepared to handle a major pandemic. If diseases like the Coronavirus continue to spread while countries still have significant gaps in global health security, the international community could face severe consequences in health, economics, and security:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the U.S. is “sparing no effort to protect our people” and help China contain the outbreak, and recently announced that the U.S. will commit up to $100 million to combat the virus.. However, unlike the 2014 Ebola Outbreak where the U.S. had a strong ground presence in West Africa, the U.S. does not have active global health programs in China, creating unique challenges.
American leadership in global health security is critical in preventing and controlling pandemics like the Coronavirus, Ebola, and Zika. U.S. investments in health systems around the world – including infrastructure like hospitals and roads, skills training for healthcare workers, and public education campaigns – can help countries contain pandemics at their source. While the costs of pandemics are high, the success of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which helped curb the AIDS epidemic and has saved 18 million lives since 2003, demonstrates that progress is possible.
The Trump Administration’s Global Health Security Strategy calls for the U.S. to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases at home and abroad, in close cooperation with international partners.
Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA): The GHSA was launched in 2014 as an international partnership of 65 nations, international organizations and NGOs. Through setting targets and facilitating cross-country collaboration, the agenda works to improve nations’ capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases around the world, bolstering international health security.
CDC’s Division of Global Health Protection: The Division of Global Health Protection works with partner countries to help build core public health capacities that are needed to identify and contain outbreaks before they reach the United States.
U.S. Agency for International Development: USAID Administrator Mark Green called the Global Health Security Strategy a critical piece of building resilience against diseases like Ebola that “jeopardize the health, security, and prosperity of all countries, including the United States.” USAID’s global health and development programs make it less likely for diseases like Ebola to spread rapidly – and make it easier to respond if they do.