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President Obama and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA)

Health Security Agenda
On Nov. 4, President Obama signed an executive order advancing the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which the administration started in 2014. As a result, the United States will now prioritize the GHSA on a presidential level.

As part of the GHSA, the United States has joined with 55 different countries, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies.  The GHSA’s top goals include the improvement of research accountability and outbreak detection, and 22 countries have already begun to evaluate outbreak responses and identify areas to improve upon.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the under-secretary general of the United Nations, suggests that the WHO needs to focus on outbreak response as one of its five main priorities in order to ensure that the global health goals will be met by 2030.

According to USAID, the “GHSA promotes global health security as a national priority through targeted capacity building activities, such as improving laboratory systems, strengthening disease surveillance, improving biosafety and biosecurity, expanding workforce development, and improving emergency management.”

USAID also proposes to support the GHSA initiative by addressing animal health, human health and the environment. USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Assistant Administrator, Dr. Ariel Pablos Mendez, says that USAID’s attention to animal health is particularly important: 70 percent of new infectious disease outbreaks begin in animals.

WaterAid also celebrates the GHSA’s anticipated role in improving the safety of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. WaterAid explains that the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera could end with access to safe water.

The GHSA’s intent to combat antimicrobial resistance relates directly to water quality. Access to safe water could prevent up to 60 percent of diarrhea cases. These cases require treatment with antibiotics, and increased use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance among bacteria.

People and diseases travel rapidly due to the spread of globalization. The CDC summarizes, “A disease threat anywhere can mean a threat everywhere.” The GHSA is designed to detect and prevent this spread of disease. “No single nation can be prepared,” the order declares, “if other nations remain unprepared to counter biological threats.”

Madeline Reding

Photo: Flickr