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Statement in Support of Extending the Global Health Security Agenda Beyond 2019

The Global Health Council, Global Health Security Agenda Consortium, Global Health Security Agenda Private Sector Roundtable, and Next Generation Global Health Security Network represent an international membership of over 100 organizations and companies operating in over 150 countries dedicated to achieving a world safe and secure from threats posed by infectious diseases. We are organizations with wide-ranging and complementary missions, and we stand together in our heightened concern about the increasing potential for pandemics to emerge and spread. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is an irreplaceable and proven mechanism for promoting measurable change in international preparedness to prevent and combat biological threats. We urge all GHSA participating countries, permanent advisors, and supporting organizations to take a firm decision to extend the GHSA beyond its current endpoint of 2019 – at a minimum for another five years. We also urge all countries to make and implement specific commitments, with a focus on financing strategies to fill gaps identified by external evaluations. The next phase of the GHSA will be a timely and critical opportunity to garner support from additional countries and stakeholders as well as ensure all countries undergo and publish independent and external evaluations. “GHSA 2.0” must focus on meaningful action, political will, and financing strategies to enact national roadmaps and fill existing gaps. The next phase also offers an opportunity to further harmonize the GHSA with one health strategies; strengthen pandemic preparedness of and communities’ access to the global health workforce; address emerging health and biosecurity threats of international concern; reduce systemic barriers; and maximize the role of all relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector.

Infectious diseases – whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental – kill millions, costs billions, and exacerbate political and economic instability. Over the last decade, global biological risk has been magnified by international travel; emerging disease threats in regions of instability; terrorist interest in weapons of mass destruction; regional conflict, migration, urbanization, and environmental degradation; and enhanced ability to manipulate pathogens with pandemic potential. When calculated in terms of lives lost, economic consequences, and global instability, infectious disease outbreaks pose an immeasurable cost when not stopped at the source.

Through its creative, commitment-driven, action-focused platform, the GHSA has served as a unique incubator to solve the toughest health security challenges. Specifically, the GHSA has succeeded in:

1.) Achieving sustained high-level attention on global health security;
2.) Developing and implementing the first agreed set of global metrics for national health security;
3.) Providing tangible support that has already improved response to disease threats, including the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, cholera outbreak in Cameroon, measles outbreak in Pakistan, and yellow fever outbreak in Uganda;
Achieving hundreds of commitments to assist more than 75 countries;
4.) Creating and implementing independent and external evaluations of capability, which has led to external evaluations in over 40 countries outlining specific gaps;
5.) Publishing the first national roadmaps for implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and pandemic preparedness with specific milestones, metrics, and timetables for improvement and integrating human and animal health sectors;
6.) Galvanizing health, security, development, agriculture, and defense agencies to work collaboratively and across sectors to achieve common targets;
7.) Mobilizing the private sector to engage in pandemic preparedness and response; and
8.) Training the next generation of young professionals and students in effective response to public health emergencies.

Before the GHSA was launched in 2014, more than 80% of countries missed the 2012 deadline to achieve full implementation of the IHR, and no effective mechanism existed for measuring country capacity or specific steps for improvement. Country reports were based solely on self-assessments. Independent external evaluations of national country capacity were not thought to be possible. In addition, many countries lacked capacity to meet their obligations to report on disease outbreaks in animals. Since that time, the GHSA has become the first and only effective international entity to convene government, civil society, and the private sector to elevate and accelerate multi-sector pandemic preparedness as each country’s national security priority and a global health imperative. Moreover, the GHSA has provided the first global venue of its kind focused on strengthening health systems capacity in a one health approach across multiple diseases that have the potential to cause an epidemic. In doing so, the GHSA has bridged broad gaps between different communities seeking to measurably reduce global biological risk. The GHSA provides a vital common agenda for action – something would need to be rebuilt if it were lost. The future of our collective global health security depends on reciprocal obligation between all nations. This will require practical shifts to enable actualized commitments. With the GHSA, the global architecture is now in place to identify, fill, and finance gaps.

The need for the GHSA has never been so crucial – now is not the time to take our foot off the gas.

Download full document here.

Tips for Tedros from Civil Society

In July, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus began his tenure as the new Director General (DG) of the World Health Organization (WHO). Prior to taking office, Global Health Council (GHC) and partners hosted a World Health Assembly (WHA70) side-event, “Priorities for the Next WHO Director General” to discuss which items the new WHO DG should tackle, and how that leader should work with key partners and stakeholders, specifically civil society. From that event and with support from its members, GHC formulated the recommendations below for Dr. Tedros and team on how WHO can maximize its potential and outreach.  

We stand behind leadership at the World Health Organization (WHO) in driving an agenda for health and wellness worldwide. We believe civil society is critical to those efforts. We recommend the following steps as Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus begins his tenure (Download the full document here):

  1. Listen.

Any good leader knows to listen first. In particular, Dr. Tedros needs to understand critical assumptions and opinions about WHO, and outstanding questions regarding its way forward. Only then can he respond meaningfully to internal and external concerns, and restore confidence in the institution. Listening also allows the new director-general to learn how best to leverage the contributions and talent of staff and missions as well as tailor initiatives and objectives that meet the needs of member states.

  1. Be strategic.

The leadership challenge at WHO is both short- and long-term. It is just as much about what one does today as what one does tomorrow. Dr. Tedros should immediately have conversations with staff and stakeholders that outline his vision for the organization, with the expectation that a roadmap will be delivered after a clearly defined amount of time. Ideally, he establishes a collective understanding regarding next steps. Then, takes action accordingly, prioritizing more pressing goals and activities on which WHO is most qualified to lead.

  1. Know your strengths.

There are issues and activities WHO must clearly take on. Conversely, the agency should leave some activities to other stakeholders. Dr. Tedros needs to make tough decisions about what the organization should and should not do with its limited resources and adopt a laser-focus on its highest and best use. (Ultimately, WHO and those it serves should be able to articulate and demonstrate its added value well.)

  1. Maximize return on investments.

Given WHO’s increasingly-limited resources, leadership must consistently develop and demonstrate value-for-dollar programs and campaigns. This, in turn, helps spur additional investments and enables the organization to unlock more capital for its important work. Dr. Tedros should invest wisely while exploring new avenues of funding that yield the most positive outcomes for the greatest population.

  1. Track success. And failure.

We heard often from previous leadership at WHO that what gets measured gets done. It is an age-old adage that rings just as true for the WHO of today as before. Dr. Tedros and his team should know when they’re doing well so they can expand on good work. It is just as important for them to know when that work is falling short of expectations so they can iterate, accordingly, mitigate negative outcomes, and ensure accountability in the process.

  1. Be transparent.

A key ingredient to ensuring WHO’s success is restoring public trust in the agency. It is no secret that trust in WHO has waned in recent years, with governments and civil society alike questioning its overall effectiveness. Dr. Tedros must face criticisms head-on, acknowledging shortcomings throughout the organization and outlining openly and transparently how he plans to course-correct and reconcile persistent challenges.

  1. Expand partnerships.

It will take many actors to realize the lofty goals of WHO. Therefore, it is critical to invite multiple stakeholders to the table in planning and implementing key initiatives. New champions yield new resources and perspectives that help advance the overall agenda in ways the agency sorely needs.

  1. Think broadly.

The SDG mandate provides an opportunity for WHO to be relevant beyond the health sector alone. World leaders have acknowledged the interconnectedness of development priorities and offered a framework of action for UN agencies and countries alike to partner across core objectives in pursuit of common goals. Dr. Tedros should ensure the agenda of WHO integrates social determinants and SDGs.

  1. Be proactive.

WHO should lead the way in transforming the way people around the world view health and wellness. In a perfect world, key global health priorities, innovations, and investments are driven by WHO. The agency should guide where we should focus our efforts across both long-standing commitments or persistent problems and emerging or less-familiar priorities. Dr. Tedros should be mindful of and sustain this leadership role.

  1. Always focus on the mission.

    Ultimately, there is a greater good that drives leadership and decision-making at WHO in a way that reflects its core purpose and mandate. That should serve as Dr. Tedros’ North Star throughout his tenure and be something he and his team come back to throughout the organization’s direction (or trajectory). Only then can WHO ensure it is acting in service to communities globally and have a meaningful impact.

  2. Tell your story. (We will too.)

    In general, people don’t know WHO. They do not fully understand or appreciate its vast contributions and ultimate value to society.  WHO should communicate how it improves the lives of people worldwide and why the public should care. Ideally, Dr. Tedros encourages public relations campaigns that highlight WHO’s remarkable work and global health leadership.

The world needs WHO to set global health policy and to listen to the health needs of the poor and most vulnerable.

Advocacy Update ~ July 10, 2017

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager at Global Health Council.

FY18 Appropriations
Capitol Hill was quiet last week because of the July 4th holiday. There is talk that the House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee will hold a hearing to markup the FY18 appropriations bill in mid-July, with the full committee markup to shortly follow. There are also rumors that the Senate may delay its August recess by a week to address appropriations. Congress has few working days left to finish up the appropriations process before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.

CDC Director Nominated
On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, named Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Dr. Fitzgerald is currently the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. Read the official announcement.

Mark Green Nomination
After postponing the meeting to vote on Ambassador Mark Green’s nomination to serve as Administrator of USAID, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled the vote for Wednesday, July 12. View the committee schedule.

Why Global Health Security: GHC’s Global Health Security Roundtable Relaunches

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager at Global Health Council.

A health care worker in Monrovia, Liberia, cares for a young Ebola patient. © 2014 Kevin Sieff/The Washington Post, Courtesy of Photoshare

We live in a highly interconnected world in which goods and people cross borders daily. We also live in a world in which infectious diseases know no borders, and in which they spread at a much faster rate than ever before. We saw this during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and we saw how weak health systems in the affected countries contributed to delayed detection and a slow and inadequate response to the outbreak.

Following the Ebola epidemic, there is a renewed focus on increasing global health security and building the capacity of countries to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks and other public health threats.

While the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has voiced support for U.S. leadership on global health security, President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 does not reflect this priority. Budgets for CDC – a primary implementer of global health security-related programs – USAID, the State Department, and other agencies were slashed.

Protecting the health of Americans means investing in global health security around the world. That means supporting programs that increase the number of health care workers, build labs, and improve data sharing practices, all of which are critical to ensuring a faster and smarter response to an outbreak.

We have seen these investments work. At the start of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, it took more than 90 days from detection of the first Ebola cases to setting up a response. In May of this year, when 11 people died after attending a funeral, it took the Liberian government (with the help of CDC and other partners) less than 24 hours to launch an emergency response. That is an impressive improvement and it happened because of multi-stakeholder support.

Furthermore, global health security is more than just stopping “scary” diseases, it also builds stronger health systems, with the resources and trained health workers that provide quality health services to meet the needs of local communities. We know that healthier communities create stronger economies, which in turn can invest in sustainable health systems.

To raise awareness of the importance of global health security, GHC is relaunching the Global Health Security Roundtable. The Roundtable will provide space for NGOs, private sector organizations, and academia to work to advance sound policy and advocate for robust investment in global health security.

To be added to the Global Health Security Roundtable list serve, email


A Long Awaited Commitment to Tackling Dementia

This post was written by Assumpta Nantume, Communications Associate at Global Health Council.

At the 70th World Health Assembly in May this year, member states and delegates endorsed a Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia. This pivotal moment followed 10 years of continued conversation, advocacy, and calls for commitment from civil society for the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase recognition of the extensive scale of dementia and the need for immediate collective action.

Dementia poses an overwhelming social and economic burden on individuals, their families, and society at large. Moreover, 58% of people living with dementia live in low- and middle-income countries where access to social protection, mental health services, support, and care are very limited.

An older married couple in Guiguinto, Philippines. © 2015 erickaustria, Courtesy of Photoshare

This situation is further complicated by the poor understanding of mental illness across cultures. Dementia has long been viewed as a natural process of aging, and in poorer communities, it is rarely acknowledged as a serious health concern even when day-to-day tasks become a challenge to the affected individual. In the developed world too, families and caretakers often wait too long before seeking medical advice once a loved one begins presenting with early symptoms like memory loss.

It is also estimated that nearly three-quarters of global dementia cases are undiagnosed; therefore, patients do not have access to the treatment, care, and support that they need. There are several interventions that can be used to delay or slow down the progression of dementia once an individual has been diagnosed – an opportunity that is often lost by either neglecting or not being able to access timely care.

This why the adoption of the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia is such a crucial step in protecting the world’s rapidly aging population and enabling senior citizens worldwide to live a more comfortable and dignified life.

One of the key objectives laid out in the public health response is to promote awareness and close the knowledge gap on dementia in communities where the subject of mental illness is still largely taboo. The global plan also aims to spur action by governments to obtain better data on their population needs, and thereby invest in much-needed infrastructure, programs, and interventions to provide appropriate care for the elderly.

While these new gains and commitments are very promising, civil society must continue to advocate tirelessly for the health and welfare of our senior citizens, and collaborate further to cement this progress. The Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance (GADAA), a champion of global action on dementia, has been a key mobilizer and convener of civil society during the consultation on the draft global action plan, ensuring that our voices and perspectives are included.

By 2050, the world’s population over the age of 60 is projected to make up 22% of the global population. Dementia can no longer be sidelined as a non-urgent priority. We need robust investments to cut down on the years lost and exorbitant economic cost incurred due to the disability dementia imparts on individuals.