This guest post has been provided by GHC-member Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
Infectious disease threats – whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental – pose grave risks to human life, the global economy, and political stability. In our increasingly interconnected world, biological crises – from the 2001 anthrax attacks to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa – make plain the need for partnerships between the national security, global health, development, and private sectors. Innovative, synergistic partnerships can identify and fill gaps, enhance accountability, improve threat awareness among leaders, policymakers and private-sector experts, and spark novel approaches to address emerging and persistent threats.
In recognition of this need, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) recently joined Global Health Council. Mindful that the risk of catastrophic biological events will continue to be magnified by global travel and trade, urbanization, terrorist interest in weapons of mass destruction, and rapid advances in technology that can both create and eliminate disease threats, NTI seeks to engage with the broader health community to jointly address risks posed by the intentional and accidental creation of disease agents, while also improving global capability to fight pandemics and shore up health systems around the world.
The threat is urgent. Although progress has been made to improve global health security – including through the launch of the Global Health Security Agenda, the Alliance for Joint External Evaluations, and the Next Generation Global Health Security Network – most countries remain ill-prepared to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to biological threats. Weak health systems, poor biosecurity practices, and lack of robust disease detection and response mechanisms continue to threaten public health and economies. Despite intermittent focus and funding during periods of crisis, world leaders and policymakers have failed to establish the capacity and financing mechanisms necessary to address biological threats.
For nearly two decades, NTI has worked to address risks posed by bioterrorism, pandemics, and dual-use biotechnology. NTI helped create both regional and global organizations focused on disease surveillance, including initial support for Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS), which recognizes the importance of cross-border communication and training, as well as the immediate impact of a biological crisis in one country on neighboring countries and continents. NTI is also a founding member of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Consortium, an international coalition of non-government stakeholders working with governments focused on accelerating progress in global health security.
More recently, NTI launched a new effort to spur more targeted commitments and sustained investments in health security. With generous new grants from the Open Philanthropy Project and the Robertson Foundation, NTI is partnering with the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Economist Intelligence Unit to develop a multi-factorial Global Health Security Index. The Index will be designed to assess national technical, financial and political capabilities to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to epidemic threats with international implications. The first phase will be advised by an international expert panel and will draw from internationally-accepted technical assessments, while incorporating other important factors, such as overall healthcare system strength, commitment to global norms, and the overall risk environment within the country.
For more information about NTI’s biosecurity work, visit the organization’s website.