Coalitions Key to Stopping Global Outbreaks

In just the past few years, viruses with exotic-sounding names like Ebola, chikungunya and Zika have sounded the alarm on the connectedness of our world. If you’re like me, one question you probably ask is what’s next? The truth is, no one really knows, but health experts know that the key to fighting disease threats—whatever they may be—is being prepared and working together.

CDC Foundation Board Member Ruth Katz, director of the Health, Medicine and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, put forward yesterday an excellent blog emphasizing the importance of coalitions in tackling large-scale challenges. In this piece, Ruth reminds us that coalitions that address health threats can serve as a model for taking on other types of challenges.

An example Ruth highlights is the coalition-based work underway with the U.S. government, partners and 60 countries—including 30 countries working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—on the Global Health Security agenda. This work focuses on building capacity for nations to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks, like Zika.

In her blog, Ruth emphasizes that “Alliances are… essential to help build and enhance the health infrastructure of countries throughout the world, especially those without adequate resources. When highly contagious viruses are just a plane ride away, in-country training of health professionals… is necessary to ensure boots are already on the ground to combat public health threats whenever and wherever they may appear.”

MosquitoBut even with the hard work already underway on global health security, Ruth points out that challenges remain and that a broader spectrum of organizations and entities will need to do more to ensure a robust global health security program.

“Less than one-third of the world’s nations are prepared to respond to global health threats such as Zika. The challenge is to bring all nations on board and to ensure the framework is followed,” she notes. “That will require additional funding beyond what our government has already wisely invested in this effort. It will also require mobilization, advocacy, and long-term commitment from government agencies, legislative bodies, philanthropies and the private business sector.”

Coalitions are key, and we thank Ruth for making that point so astutely.

Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.