As part of the next phase of the GHSA, we will work to increase accountability among member countries, but also to pair up countries with outside organizations, stakeholders and, yes, even the private sector to build preparedness. Just because an organization has stockholders or profits does not mean they aren’t interested in helping to solve the health problems our world faces. Indeed, the incentives they have for innovation can make them a vital part of our efforts to confront infectious disease.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you all for joining us here this morning. In particular, I’d like to thank PATH for hosting this event today to address this immensely important topic.
The potential for outbreaks of infectious disease has to be a priority for all of us, whether inside or outside of government. Infectious threats do not respect boundaries between countries and can rapidly spread, creating destabilizing international health emergencies.
As just one example, let me remind you about the Ebola outbreak we are currently monitoring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
International mobility is such that DRC officials, with help from the U.S. government, other governments, and the WHO, are screening more than 100,000 people per day. That’s in an outbreak that has, so far, been contained to one country.
The progress the DRC has made in its own ability to respond to these epidemics is a great tribute to its commitment, but also to the work done by so many partners to ensure that all countries around the world can prevent, detect, respond to, mitigate and control disease outbreaks.
The U.S. government is committed to building on successes like that, working in multisectoral partnerships with other countries, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders, including the private sector.
The Global Health Security Agenda was a major step forward in these efforts, a global paradigm shift in thinking about public health.
As just one small example, it brought a new level of awareness of the threat of zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Seventy-five percent of emerging diseases are zoonotic and 80 percent of agents with potential bioterrorist use are zoonotic pathogens. Protecting human health from these threats must, therefore, obviously involve sectors not as closely associated with human health, including veterinary expertise.
The U.S. government strongly supports the GHSA as one mechanism for focusing the world on these threats, and we believe our whole-of-government work on this has been a true success.
A sustained, focused commitment to global health security is vital to saving lives, spending dollars wisely, and minimizing political and economic instability around the world.
The investments we make in prevention, detection and mitigation now are far less expensive than response costs we could face later.
A key piece of global health security work is identifying areas for improvement and strengthening these systems wherever possible. We have effective tools at our disposal to do this, including external evaluation, simulation exercises, and after-event performance reviews.
We strongly support other countries engaging in these exercises, but no one can do it alone. Other countries can and should rely on partnerships to help them identify and address their strengths and weaknesses.
It’s not just individual governments that ought to turn to our innovative counterparts outside of government—international organizations should do so as well.
Quite frankly, WHO needs to expand its Rolodex.
We all know just how much ingenuity and expertise resides outside the walls of government. As part of the next phase of the GHSA, we will work to increase accountability among member countries, but also to pair up countries with outside organizations, stakeholders and, yes, even the private sector to build preparedness.
Just because an organization has stockholders or profits does not mean they aren’t interested in helping to solve the health problems our world faces. Indeed, the incentives they have for innovation can make them a vital part of our efforts to confront infectious disease.
In the work I have done at HHS, I can attest that we would not have many of the tools we have to respond to infectious threats, from anthrax to Ebola, without the rapid innovation driven by private-sector incentives.
We know we will never be 100 percent safe from infectious disease outbreaks. This challenge is so immense, and so quickly evolving, that we must be as open as possible to all those who look to contribute, including private innovators.
Everyone, inside and outside government, wants their countries to be safe from the terrifying threat of an infectious disease outbreak. The U.S. government recognizes that, our policies recognize it, and we are eager to work with all of you to make meaningful cooperation with the private sector a reality everywhere we can.
Thank you again for joining us here today.