White House issues executive order formalizing agency roles in Global Health Security Agenda

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“No single nation can be prepared if other nations remain unprepared to counter biological threats . . .” Executive Order Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda to Achieve a World Safe and Secure from Infectious Disease Threats, Nov. 4, 2016

Guided and monitored by a council of high-level representatives of at least a dozen U.S. Federal agencies and offices, the Global Health Security Agenda launched by the Obama Administration in 2014 will respond to and report challenges in controlling infectious disease threats in a formalized planning process with partner countries, according to an executive order issued by the White House Friday.

The order creates a framework of accountability for a global initiative that has grown since its inception in 2013 from two U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-guided pilot projects that updated communicable disease surveillance capacities in Vietnam, and improved HIV and TB diagnostic capacities in Uganda, to collaborations with 55 countries as well as partnerships with non-governmental organizations and private sector entities today. During that time, crises that include the West Africa Ebola outbreak and the spread of the Zika virus and its associated impacts across the Western Hemisphere, as well as a United Nations meeting on threats posed by global antimicrobial resistance, have highlighted gaps in public health surveillance, monitoring, and response capacities worldwide.

The order issued Friday delegates specific responsibilities to the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, as well as to the CDC, USAID, EPA, the Offices of Management and Budget and Science and Technology Policy to prioritize Global Health Security Agenda related activities, and guide the overall agenda in at least quarterly meetings of a review body convened by the National Security Council. The order requires the new Global Health Security Agenda Interagency Review Council to produce a guiding document within the next 30 days. The order then requires the Council to produce an evaluation of progress made and challenges confronted during the initiative’s first five years, and present it to the White House by September 2019.

In a Huffington Post blog piece Friday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden called the order “good news,” that “establishes the Global Health Security Agenda as a national, presidential-level priority and establishes the United States as a committed, long-term catalyst for achieving the promise and protections that GHSA holds.”  He notes successes in the agenda’s first two years that include rapid responses to outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, yellow fever, and avian influenza. In a release following the order, National Security Advisor Susan Rice also notes U.S.-led efforts to end the West Africa Ebola outbreak, and to control the spread of Zika virus now.

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