Rockville, Md. – It is not a matter of if there will be a major pandemic, it’s a matter of when. That’s the consensus of global health security experts who came together recently at a conference sponsored by the University of Texas’s Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs. A white paper the institute released noted four gaps that need to be addressed to increase pandemic preparedness and biosecurity and provided recommendations for closing them. The four areas are:
1) Establishing greater community resilience
2) Strengthening coordination and leadership in Washington
3) Changing the university and funding reward systems to encourage greater interdisciplinary research, education and service
4) Elevating the importance and incentives for private sector involvement in pandemic preparedness and response and overall biosecurity.
Two Abt authors, James White, R.N., project management officer for Global Health Security, and Alinda Lauer, an analyst in the International Development Division, wrote the white paper’s first chapter. It deals with community resilience—the ability to perform core functions before, during and after a crisis—and included recommendations for developing it.
White and Lauer note that local residents and structures are critical throughout the process, from recognizing and reporting potential outbreaks to rapid containment and control efforts that limit geographic spread. But national governments and international organizations have failed to address community needs to combat a pandemic, such as bolstering primary care systems and achieving universal health coverage. What’s more, they added, the international response to epidemics fails to account for community vulnerabilities, from poor physical infrastructure to lack of trained personnel, which undermine efforts to cope with the contagion.
“Empowered communities are the front line defense against a pandemic. If they lack adequate resources, basic primary health care, appropriate communication, and monitoring and reporting systems, the cost in lives and dollars will be enormous,” says White.
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is an engine for social impact, dedicated to moving people from vulnerability to security. Abt provides research, consulting and technical services globally in the areas of health, environmental and social policy, technology and international development. http://www.abtassociates.com