Global Priorities to Achieve the Global Health Security Agenda

March 30, 2017

Global Priorities to Achieve the Global Health Security Agenda

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), launched in 2014 by the U.S. and other countries, is dedicated to strengthening the capacities of countries to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. The GHSA aims to protect the poorest countries and most neglected populations and works to ensure health security benefits. The GHSA assumes a multi-sectoral, holistic approach to health security and preventing infectious disease.

It will take time for the GHSA to completely achieve its goals.  To do so, the global community must make a sustained effort to prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease threats and outbreaks, no matter where they occur.  We, the global community, can do this in several ways.

First, it is important to maintain the international momentum and engagement around health security as a priority focus area. The GHSA was constructed to encourage leadership from membership countries. Countries such as Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and others have demonstrated strong leadership and strategic vision. This drive continues under the Chair of South Korea for the 2017 term.  

Second, the issue of global health must remain a priority at the highest levels of government. In previous years, countries engaged in the GHSA have advanced it at the level of their Ministries of Health. Continued engagement on the GHSA by Ministries of Health is important to ensure the domestic apparatus within countries is fully behind the GHSA. However, it is also important that all the relevant Ministries are engaged. In addition to the Ministries of Public Health, it is imperative that the Ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Security, Finance, Development and Law Enforcement are all part of the GHSA implementation within countries. All ministries have areas of specialization that are an integral part of the capacity building required to successfully prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.

Third, the GHSA can only succeed by using a One Health approach. Almost 60% of all human disease and nearly 75% of all emerging infectious disease are zoonotic diseases, meaning they come pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep, and camels.  When it comes to focusing on animal health, however, funding amounts dedicated to surveillance, research, and workforce training remain low in the U.S. and globally. Increased funding is urgently needed in the U.S. and among international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Overall funding, not just to the animal health entities, but for all the areas included in GHSA must also continue. The U.S., the G7, South Korea, the Nordic countries, and other nations have made financial pledges towards GHSA implementation. Funding must continue not only for the many projects on the ground to strengthen capacity within the areas of GHSA, but also for the Joint External Evaluations (JEEs) that are now being led by the WHO with assistance from GHSA countries, international organizations, and the non-governmental sector.

Finally, it is important that the nongovernmental sector (NGS)  remain involved in the implementation of the GHSA.  The NGS community has organized itself into the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium to better engage with the GHSA overall. The NGS must now increase its engagement with the implementation of the GHSA and continue to determine how it can strengthen its efforts in global health security.