Is your country ready for a pandemic?

The next influenza pandemic could cost the world economy $6 trillion — unless countries act now.

“The world remains underprepared to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring, accidental or deliberately released,” said Tim Ziemer, senior director for global health security for the White House National Security Council.

The United States is doing its part and urges other countries to follow suit. For example, in recent years, the United States has

  • invested more than $1 billion in 17 at-risk countries through the Global Health Security Agenda;
  • helped train disease detectives who stopped hundreds of outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa; and
  • supported networks of emergency operations centers in places such as Vietnam.

“We recognize that the cost of failing to control outbreaks and losing lives is far greater than the cost of prevention,” said Ziemer, who in late October led a U.S. delegation to a global health conference in Kampala, Uganda.

Health before wealth

Helping countries prepare for outbreaks forms the core of global health strategy, according to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The Global Health Security Agenda remains one of the most vital initiatives for building global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats,” the secretary said in an October speech.

When the Global Health Security Agenda was launched in 2014, shortly before cases of Ebola were found in Africa, only about 30 percent of all countries reported that they had necessary tools to fight public health emergencies.

But the secretary recently lauded countries — including Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom — that have committed substantial resources to build health security throughout the world.

“Considerable work remains,” Tillerson said. “We must keep up the momentum,” the secretary said, calling health security “a necessary foundation for countries to make strides in other areas.”

Citing President Trump’s remarks to African leaders at the U.N., the secretary said, “We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy.”