WHO Executive Board Meeting: HHS Global Affairs leader cites need to increase investments in worldwide health emergency preparedness

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The World Health Organization Executive Board meets this week in Geneva.

GENEVA – Staff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and USAID made it here despite the current U.S. government office shutdown, and are participating in the 142nd World Health Organization Executive Board session, which kicked off today at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

While the U.S. is not on the WHO Executive Board for 2018, Garret Grigsby, director of the HHS Office of Global Affairs, delivered remarks highlighting the need to increase investments in worldwide public health emergency preparedness, saying committing to such investments now “is far less expensive than emergency response later.” He noted WHO member states’ compliance to the International Health Regulations – which legally binds countries to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases – is critical to reducing the impact of global outbreaks.

While other high- and middle-income country representatives delivered remarks in support of WHO’s activities and plans for strengthening universal health coverage, Grigsby did not offer  support or opposition, but commented that the U.S. government wants to see the WHO and member states work to reduce healthcare costs to increase access to healthcare globally. He argued that universal health coverage is not possible without the participation of the private sector.

“The World Health Organization’s technical expertise and evidence-based public health voice must remain neutral,” Grigsby said, adding that the U.S. government believes the WHO should stick to core functions and not engage in advocacy work, and avoid “certain ideologies or agendas.” The WHO, he said, “must improve the process of obtaining outside technical expertise, improve transparency . . . and work with the private sector.”

Global Health staff from IDSA, which produces this blog, is here and will offer these statements on infectious disease agenda items as a non-state actor.

Stay tuned . . .

2 thoughts on “WHO Executive Board Meeting: HHS Global Affairs leader cites need to increase investments in worldwide health emergency preparedness

  1. David Fedson

    The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) recently stated, “In an increasingly interconnected world, an emerging public health threat anywhere poses a potential threat everywhere… Halting outbreaks where they begin is one of the most effective ways to protect Americans.”

    Sadly, it won’t be possible to halt a public health threat like an influenza pandemic where it begins, and the same is true for an Ebola-like outbreak in a sub-Saharan African country. A rapid response fund to deal with these threats might be helpful, but by itself it won’t provide physicians with what they will need to care for patients who fall victim to one of these emerging diseases.

    The IDSA is advocating a “top down” approach to preparedness that supports research on vaccines that won’t be available when they are needed and new treatments targeting individual pathogens that will be expensive and in short supply. The work will be slow to organize and very costly. We also need research on a “bottom up” approach to treating patients with inexpensive generic drugs that modify the host response.
    Despite the views of DHHS, this research will never be supported by the private sector; it will only be undertaken if there is public support.

    If this approach could be shown convincingly to improve outcomes, it could be implemented by practicing physicians in any country on the first epidemic or pandemic day. Unfortunately, this idea has not been supported by the NIH, CDC, BARDA, WHO, the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, and it has little if any support from influenza and Ebola scientists. Nonetheless, it is based on a solid foundation of laboratory and clinical research by other investigators who understand the biology of the host response to infection and how simple treatments might improve survival.

    DA Henderson, who led the WHO program to eradicate smallpox, once said, Ïf you’re not on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.” If the IDSA, DHHS and WHO wish to be leaders in pandemic preparedness, they must be willing to advocate a far-reaching idea that is “on the edge”.

  2. Pingback: What we’re reading: How critical efforts to build infectious disease capacities worldwide could be diminished, and why that matters | Science Speaks: Global ID News

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