Pandemic Preparedness Event Focuses on Strengthening Health Systems and Supporting Frontline Health Workers

May 18, 2018

DAI’s Global Health team participated in a lively panel discussion on the future of response to disease outbreaks for the CSIS symposium, “Pandemic Preparedness: Policy and Practice in the 21st Century.” The symposium—hosted by the CSIS Global Health Policy Center in collaboration with DAI, Mérieux Foundation USA, and the USAID Preparedness & Response project—explored how U.S. and international policies aim to reduce the risk of a 21st century equivalent of the influenza pandemic of 1918, which caused the deaths of 50 million people worldwide.

CSIS_1.jpgPictured, from left, Andrew Kitua, Regional Director, Africa, USAID-funded Preparedness & Response project; Beth Cameron, Vice President for Global Biological Policy and Programs, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and panel moderator; Amadou Sall, Professor and Director, Institut Pasteur, Dakar, Senegal.

Luciana Borio, Director of Medical & Biodefense Preparedness Policy at the National Security Council, opened the event. Borio highlighted the need to take a global, collective responsibility for pandemic preparedness and the importance of training frontline health workers in communities that are most threatened by outbreaks.

“The health of the American people depends on our ability to stop diseases at the source,” she emphasized.

The symposium’s panel discussion featured David Heymann of Chatham House’s Centre on Global Health Security, Amadou Sall of the Institut Pasteur, and Andrew Kitua of the DAI-led Preparedness & Response project. Panelists identified priorities and challenges facing the future of pandemic preparedness and discussed recent events such as the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Kitua, who has worked directly with DRC neighbor countries on their preparedness for the current Ebola outbreak, stressed the need to build the capacity of health systems at the country level prior to outbreaks occurring and discussed how establishing regional health threat funds could mitigate future pandemics.

“I would urge the global community to include funding for prevention so that countries can access those funds when there is no emergency,” he said. “We spend a lot of money to wait and respond to outbreaks; we need to invest in prevention and recognize the cost savings it provides.”

Listen to a podcast and watch a short video of Kitua.

Following the panel, Sabrina Sholts of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History previewed the institution’s major new exhibit, Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World. The exhibit opens May 18 and coincides with the 100th anniversary of the “Great Influenza” of 1918, the most lethal pandemic in recent history.

Chris_LeGrand_CSIS.jpg

DAI Global Health President Chris LeGrand.

“We’ve made great public health progress in the past 100 years since the 1918 outbreak,” said DAI Global Health President Chris LeGrand in his closing remarks. “Now we look to the future where we must continue to improve global governance, health systems, and human capacity to ensure prepared and resilient societies in the face of future pandemics when–not if–they come.”

DAI Global Health builds on two decades of frontline experience tackling diseases such as avian influenza and Ebola. DAI is currently implementing the U.S. Government’s flagship Preparedness & Response program.

Watch a full recording of the event.

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