How well are today’s U.S. and international policies working to reduce the risk of a 21st century equivalent of the deadly Influenza of 1918? How do those policies translate into practice in high-risk countries?
Beth Cameron, NTI’s vice president for Global Biological Policy and Programs, participated in a symposium on the current state of pandemic preparedness policy hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) earlier this month.
The symposium (a video of which can be found herebegan with a keynote address by Luciana Borio, director of Medical & Biodefense Preparedness Policy at the U.S. National Security Council, who emphasized that while many global health policy challenges remain, “the world is doing dramatically better” and “we should celebrate” the global health community’s achievements.
Cameron moderated a panel discussion, “Policy in Practice,” between David Heymann, head and senior fellow at Chatham House’s Centre on Global Health Security; Andrew Kitua, Africa regional director of the USAID Preparedness & Response project; and Amadou Sall, CEO of the Institut Pasteur – Dakar.
When asked about their biggest global health policy challenges, Sall described the difficulty of building sustainability with health security infrastructure, as major changes like urbanization happen over time. Kitua echoed that sentiment and added that it is hard to convince colleagues to invest in prevention of global health threats ahead of time, as opposed to waiting and reacting, which seems to be the norm.
So are we more prepared for Ebola now than we were during the original outbreak?
Sall was encouraging, noting that officials now can detect and confirm a diagnosis in the same day, when previously, such a process could take multiple days. However, reacting to a new outbreak “is a process,” Sall said, and “there are still gaps” in the response.
“What do we do when there will be situations we can’t foresee or prevent?” Cameron asked.
“If there is good coordination at the country level,” Kitua noted, officials will be “better conduits for resources.”
Cameron concluded the panel with one final important question: How important is global leadership and leadership from the U.S. in putting global health policy into practice?
“It’s extremely important for driving the agenda,” Sall answered.
Learn more about NTI’s work on global health security issues here.