Billions needed to prepare for global health crises, says panel

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In the wake of the devastating Ebola epidemic of 2014-15 in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people and cost about $2.2 billion, an international commission has outlined an ambitious agenda—at an annual cost of $4.5 billion—aimed at readying the world for the next global health crisis, whether it’s a resurgence of Ebola, SARS, or bird flu, a swiftly moving threat like the Zika virus, or some entirely new disease.

The commission’s report, published January 13, 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, urges sweeping improvements in nations’ public health capabilities and infrastructure, in international leadership for preparedness and response, and in research and development related to infectious diseases.

Read a NEJM article about the report.

“The Ebola crisis has spawned a huge amount of reflection in the global community,” said Margaret Kruk, associate professor of global health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who served as a reviewer for the report, which comes on the heels of two other post-Ebola reports—including a joint report issued last November by the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (known as the Harvard-LSHTM report).

Each of these reports has drawn similar conclusions: that the world must respond more quickly and more effectively to potential pandemics. The new report is notable because it focuses on how improvements will get implemented and who should be responsible for them, said Kruk.