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A Safer World: Prevention, Detection, & Response

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February 13, 2014

Even today’s severe snowstorm in Washington was not enough to deter diplomats, health ministers and secretaries from dozens of countries from joining us at HHS headquarters to discuss a new agenda for global health security.  We were joined via satellite by the Directors General of the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

We came together in the belief that everyone – regardless of which country they happen to live – deserves the basic human dignity of being protected from infectious disease.  

Our world is connected in ways previously unimagined or foreseen.  This greater connectedness brings with it both new vulnerabilities and new opportunities.

On the one hand, microbes and diseases are moving faster and farther than ever.  And one thing we know for certain: They do not recognize or stop at national borders.  A threat anywhere is indeed a threat everywhere.

And yet, for all the challenges we face, we’re seeing an unprecedented willingness to work together.  Meanwhile, scientists and researchers at places like the National Institutes of Health are discovering new cures, developing new vaccines, and unleashing new innovations.

The Global Health Security Agenda is framed around three primary strategies:

  1. Enhanced prevention of infectious disease threats both naturally-occurring and manmade.
  2. More robust detection which includes real-time bio surveillance and more effective modern diagnostics.
  3. More effective response, including a public health Emergency Operation Center in each country that functions according to common standards.

Global health security is one of President Obama’s top priorities, and the Administration is working to advance these strategies.

Working together across 30 countries, we can protect at least 4 billion global citizens within the next five years.  And our vision is for all people in all countries to be effectively protected against the threats posed by infectious disease. 

Ridding the world of infectious diseases is not a small goal.   There are few simple solutions and no magic cures, but we can’t afford the cost of defeat—economically, socially, or in the devastating loss of lives. With prevention, detection, and effective response, we can build a safer world.