Sunday, November 30, 2014

Obama's Global Health Agenda

“Make Sure We're Not Caught Flat-footed”
President Obama made this statement in September about the need to revamp the world’s preparedness to deal with epidemics in the future. On September 16, the White House released the fact sheet on the US response to Ebola that not only contained information about the actions the US will take about Ebola, but about the actions it will take to build the capacity of other nations to deal with the outbreak. The fact sheet indicates, "Over the next five years the United States has committed to working with at least 30 partner countries to invest in model systems to advance the Global Health Security agenda. CDC and DoD will work with other U.S. agencies and partner countries to establish emergency operations centers, build information systems, and strengthen laboratory security to mitigate biological threats and build partner capacity.”

In February 2014, before the Ebola crisis had occurred, the US government had already initiated a global health security project. The goal of this project was to assist 30 countries build a network of physicians and health care professionals, increase local disease prevention and monitoring, improve the laboratories,  and ensure the preparedness of local health care facilities to deal with emergencies.  While the objectives the White House and the CDC make seem to be similar to the previous goals of the CDC, the authors of the Huffington Post article claim that this initiative differs from the previous system of having Western disease detectives investigate in that it relies on more international collaboration and local participation. In the video of the GHS Agenda Launch of February, 2014, the speakers indicate their goals of making progress in developing and delivering measurable commitments. Information about the global health security agenda, including action packages, a fact sheet, President Obama’s remarks, and videos of the GHS Agenda Launch in February, 2014 can be found on the CDC website. It seems that the timing of the Ebola outbreak was just right in showing the desperate need for the amelioration of emergency outbreak preparedness worldwide. While the commitment to global health security preceding the Ebola  outbreak seems clairvoyant, it just highlight the need for the improvement of health systems around the world. 

I was curious to find out what concrete steps the CDC has taken to make their dream of global health security into reality.  I tried to find how much money the US government is giving towards this initiative. Surprisingly(or maybe not since almost anything can be found on the Internet), all information on allocations to global health was available online on the Kaiser Family Foundation website. Check it out! Some progress has been made in terms of funding from last year, and the FY2015 budget request includes a 45 million increase in funding from FY2014. I found that the allocation of funding on prevention research centers, healthcare surveillance, and public health system research has seen a total increase of 63000 from 2014, and around $20000 from 2013.  There is an increase in funding for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases and public health scientific services. There is a slight decrease in funding for immunization and respiratory diseases. I am not sure if the numbers I found are correct, because it seems odd that the increase would only be in the thousands, but that was the data I pulled from Tom Friedan’s request for CDC 2015 funding. Apart from increasing funding, the CDC is working on increasing the collaboration between countries. They invited health leaders from different parts of the world to the white house and had numerous conferences and events during the past months. In fact, you can see a Flickr photo album of a meeting in Indonesia in August.

CDC’s president Tom Frieden stated: "The world would be a very different place today if Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone had had those systems in place a year ago. They could have contained this outbreak.” While this statement seems intuitive, it also brings back a recurring theme: "should it be the responsibility of the US to take care of the health systems around the world?"

As usual, I welcome your feedback!
Virologically yours,

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