Obama Team Launches Global Partnership Aimed at Battling Pandemics

To stop epidemics such as the swine flu, there has to be a global commitment to reporting and responding to outbreaks, the White House says.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about his plans to help America's long-term unemployed during an event in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the event Obama signed a memorandum directing the federal government not to discriminate against long-term unemployed job seekers. 
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Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Feb. 13, 2014, 4:05 a.m.

The U.S. is launch­ing a world­wide ef­fort to pre­vent, de­tect, and re­spond to the out­break of in­fec­tious dis­eases.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us joined Lisa Monaco, as­sist­ant to the pres­id­ent for home­land se­cur­ity and coun­terter­ror­ism, to an­nounce the Glob­al Health Se­cur­ity Agenda, an ef­fort of 26 na­tions and three in­ter­na­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tions to stop loss of life, avert ser­i­ous eco­nom­ic con­sequences as­so­ci­ated with mass in­fec­tion, and block bi­o­ter­ror threats.

“We know that out­breaks any­where in the world are only a plane ride away,” said Laura Hol­gate, seni­or dir­ect­or at the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil.

Thursday’s an­nounce­ment from the White House mir­rors the ef­forts of the the World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion, which set out In­ter­na­tion­al Health Reg­u­la­tions in 2005 in an ef­fort to cre­ate a glob­al re­port­ing and re­sponse sys­tem for pub­lic health risks. Less than one in five coun­tries ad­heres to WHO stand­ards, and Hol­gate said they’re “put­ting polit­ic­al high­lights” on it.

“The U.S. is put­ting re­sources to­ward this and oth­ers should do the same,” she said.

Roughly $40 mil­lion will come out of ex­ist­ing U.S. re­sources to sup­port the ef­forts in 2014 of 10 low- and middle-in­come coun­tries that are work­ing to meet the In­ter­na­tion­al Health Reg­u­la­tions laid out by WHO, ac­cord­ing to Tom Frieden, dir­ect­or of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. In 2015, Frieden ad­ded, the pres­id­ent plans to al­loc­ate $45 mil­lion to the CDC for the ex­pli­cit pur­pose of glob­al health se­cur­ity.

There’s already prom­ising res­ults in one of the pi­lot pro­grams the U.S. has launched, ac­cord­ing to Frieden. The CDC worked with Uganda — a coun­try that has dealt with nu­mer­ous out­breaks, in­clud­ing Ebola and chol­era — to trans­port samples from po­ten­tially in­fec­tious pa­tients for re­mote test­ing, and used text mes­saging to track the cases. The CDC has already meas­ured im­prove­ments in lab test­ing and in­ter­op­er­a­bil­lity of in­form­a­tion and man­age­ment sys­tems in Uganda.

The goal of the world­wide ef­fort is “to slow the spread of an­ti­mi­cro­bi­al res­ist­ance, es­tab­lish na­tion­al bi­o­se­c­ur­ity sys­tems, re­duce zo­onot­ic dis­ease trans­mis­sion, in­crease routine im­mun­iz­a­tion, es­tab­lish and strengthen na­tion­al in­fec­tious dis­ease sur­veil­lance and labor­at­ory sys­tems, and de­vel­op real-time elec­tron­ic re­port­ing sys­tems and emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ters,” ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

The White House plans to meet with the na­tions com­mit­ted to its health agenda to meas­ure pro­gress this fall.

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