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A Global Health Security Agenda

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Washington, D.C.
February 13, 2014


Opening Statement

Thank you, Dr. Frieden.  Tom Friedan is a great leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and one of our country’s leading voices on behalf of greater health security. 

I know he’s been working closely with many of you to put the Global Health Security agenda into action. 

Director-General Chan;
Director-General Vallat;
Director General da Silva;
Fellow Ministers and Secretaries;
Distinguished Ambassadors;
Honored colleagues and guests:

Welcome to the United States, welcome to snowy Washington D.C., and welcome to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.   Thank you for braving the elements.

And to those in Geneva, a special welcome and thank you for joining us.

We are honored to host you here today.  And we are honored to be your partners in this important, life-affirming work.

Prevent, Detect, Respond

We have come together in recognition that our world is connected in ways previously unimagined or foreseen – and in recognition that this greater connectedness brings with it both new vulnerabilities and new opportunities.

Across our ever shrinking planet, outbreaks of infectious disease threaten the health of more and more people; the strength of more economies; and the stability of more of our neighbors in the community of nations. 

Fewer than 20% of countries report that they are adequately prepared to effectively detect, respond or prevent global health threats caused by emerging diseases.

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: 

All 194 member nations of the World Health Organization have signed onto its International Health Regulations. 

Countries are coordinating and collaborating more than ever. 

Nations and regional partners are establishing, expanding and strengthening their laboratory systems.

What’s more, scientists and researchers at places like National Institutes of Health here in the United States, are discovering new cures, developing new vaccines, and unleashing new innovations.

In short, we are expanding both our scientific understanding as well as our understanding of one another, and of what can be possible when we work together across boundaries and borders.

Here in the United States, global health security is one of President Obama’s top priorities.  His 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.

Working together across at least 30 countries, we can protect at least 4 billion global citizens within the next five years. 

And this is an important start.  But our vision is for all people in all countries to be effectively protected against the threats posed by infectious disease. 

Our work, therefore, will not be done until we bring more nations into the fold so that we can protect all of our world’s people. 

To advance President Obama’s vision, in 2013, we worked with Uganda and Vietnam and demonstrated that rapid progress is possible around our three primary strategies.

To make further progress, this year CDC will partner with the Department of Defense to commit $40 million to 10 countries

And in President Obama’s 2015 budget, he will propose an additional 45 million dollars to help protect even more people around the world.

Our strategic agenda is a multi-sector agenda. Indeed, the U.S. Delegation joining us today includes representatives from the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, USAID, Health & Human Services, and the White House.


The American author Paul Hawken writes that “Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world,… rather than control, it seeks connection.” 

This agenda is all about connection.  It’s about strengthening the constructive connections between our nations, so that together we can save more lives. 

And it’s about addressing the potentially harmful connections that threaten to spread infections across national borders.

We have an historic opportunity to partner together:

We see it in the countries represented here today. 

We see it in the hard work of our colleagues joining us from Geneva. 

And we see it in the hearts of people working across the globe on behalf of the goals we share for a safer world.

We have the will; we have the way; now it’s time to act.

I look forward to today’s conversation.

Closing Statement

I want to again thank Ms. Monaco, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, Director Generals Chan, Vallat, and da Silva, as well as all of our distinguished guests, for your dedication to improving Global Health Security.

The progress we have made as an international community is heartening, but I am even more encouraged to see that commitment reaffirmed by this discussion and by your presence today. This is a continuation of the journey we have agreed to take together, because we cannot fight these threats alone.

And that is something President Obama understands. As Ms. Monaco mentioned earlier, partner nations will assemble at the White House this fall to review our collective progress and map out what’s next. By then, our hope is that we will have developed meaningful objectives that are within our reach.

Be assured that the President and his team are engaged and invested, and are making these partnerships a priority.

I hope we can depend on you for the same. Discussions like this are an important step, but we know that the real work must happen outside of this room. I hope each of you will work to ensure that Global Health Security rises to the highest level of consideration for your government. And I hope you will help us enlist other nations and partners to our cause.

We are well aware that 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.

Together, we can achieve a world where all people, in every country are effectively protected against the threats posed by infectious disease.  With prevention, detection, and effective response, we can build a safer world.  

Thank you for your participation today and your partnership. I look forward to the good work we will do together.

Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Speechwriting Division
Content last reviewed on June 13, 2014