Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bill Gates Urges for Global Response to Future Epidemics

In an article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Bill Gates advocated for the creation of a global response system that can respond to the demands of large scale epidemics - ones he fears will be larger than that of the current Ebola epidemic.

The problem with existing global systems (such as the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network), he argues, is that they are understaffed and undertrained. Furthermore, the existence of many different organizations that work on related causes results in a less organized and less streamlined response.

To remedy this issue, a global institution with the autonomy and resources to effectively tackle epidemics must be established.   In Gates' view, this would involve a reserve corps of public health workers and volunteers who can respond to the immediate needs of an outbreak.  Such a system would ameliorate exogenous factors such as weak healthcare systems in countries.  Gates also advocates for a global epidemic drug-approval process, by which experimental/unlicensed drugs could be evaluated for immediate use in cases of emergency.

The big question that remains with the implementation of a global response system is the funding.  Who should be expected to fund the system, and how much would such a system cost?  The answers to these questions will bring us one step closer to establishing a global response unit.

--Andrew Duong

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