Advancing Global and National Health Security: Lessons from SARS and MERS to Ebola and Zika

Advancing Global and National Health Security: Lessons from SARS and MERS to Ebola and Zika

Professor Lawrence Gostin

Abstract: Over the past decade, the world has faced a series of global health crises involving contagious diseases with pandemic potential. From novel influenzas (H5N1 and H1N1), coronaviruses (SARS, and MERS) to the Ebola and Zika viruses, governments and international organisations have struggled to act quickly and decisively. The consequences loom large in both economic and human terms. Modeling suggests that the economic costs of a 21st-century pandemic could exceed USD$60 billion annually, placing pandemic disease in a category similar to war, terrorism and financial crises. Despite this, global investments in risk mitigation frameworks for pandemic disease remains inadequate and leaves countries exposed to significant disruption, financial harm, and avoidable mortality. Professor Lawrence Gostin has served on two high-level commissions inquiring into the lessons learned from the 2015 West Africa Ebola epidemic: the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework (National Academy of Sciences, supported by WHO, World Bank, Gates Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation), and the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola (Harvard University/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). Professor Gostin will reflect on lessons learned from these and other global commissions into the Ebola epidemic and global health risk framework. Professor Gostin will argue that the lessons from past epidemics point to three key drivers of change: national health systems, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN System reform, and accelerated Research and Development. Each of these drivers of change requires system-wide accountability mechanisms to improve their performance and to reduce the human and economic cost of future epidemics.

Lawrence O. Gostin is University Professor, Georgetown University’s highest academic rank conferred by the University President. Prof. Gostin directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and is the Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law. He served as Associate Dean for Research at Georgetown Law from 2004 to 2008. He is Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and Professor of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University.

Prof. Gostin is the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law & Human Rights. The WHO Director-General has appointed Prof. Gostin to high-level positions, including the International Health Regulations (IHR) Roster of Experts and the Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health. He served on the Director-General’s Advisory Committee on Reforming the World Health Organization, as well as numerous WHO expert advisory committees, including the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, smallpox, and genomic sequencing data. He is a member of the WHO/Global Fund Blue Ribbon Expert Panel entitled, The Equitable Access Initiative to develop a global health equity framework.