Disease Outbreaks Endanger Lives and Jobs, But There Are Solutions

It’s well-known just how harmful disease outbreaks can be in terms of lives lost or ruined. Families and communities can be devastated, and the shape and trajectories of nations can be changed. What’s less recognized is how outbreaks impact trade and national economies.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published two articles in Health Security (global health security article and export impact article) examining the link between global health security, disease outbreaks and the U.S. economy and jobs. These articles were highlighted today in a Washington Times op-ed by Gary Cohen, executive vice president of Global Health at Becton Dickinson and Co. (BD) and CDC Foundation board member, and Rebecca Martin, director of CDC’s Center for Global Health.

Cohen and Martin, based on CDC’s analyses, point out that the number of U.S. jobs at risk quickly increases as an outbreak spreads from one country to multiple countries. Interestingly, CDC also determined that the number of U.S. jobs at risk, depending on the outbreak, increases from about 1,400 to more than 1.3 million. And, CDC found that these jobs are at risk even if no individual in the United States gets sick during the outbreak.

While outbreaks will remain a constant global challenge, Cohen and Martin point out that there are solutions to address health and economic risks. “The U.S. answer to this risk is the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), a modern partnership building and strengthening capacity to thwart disease threats where they start,” they conveyed. “GHSA leverages a multisectoral approach with government and private sector engagement, new technology and expertise to elevate health security as a component of our national security.”

As part of the GHSA work, CDC and its partners are building capabilities to prevent, detect and contain disease outbreaks around the world—but funding, which is essential for this work, is not guaranteed. 

In its fiscal year 2019 budget, the Trump administration has put forward a request of $59 million to go toward funding GHSA. This new funding, according to Cohen and Martin, “provides an important bridge to the extension of the GHSA announced by the administration in October 2017 in Uganda. The second phase of GHSA 2.0 will begin in 2020 and build our country’s protection capacity into the next decade.”

GHSA funding provides CDC with the resources it needs to work with other countries to address disease outbreaks there to prevent the outbreaks spreading to other countries and arriving here, in America. Giving CDC this support allows the agency to use its experts and technology to work with other countries to prevent dangerous outbreaks and control new threats. 

According to Cohen and Martin, “We must take advantage of the bridge funding provided in the administration’s budget to ensure the men and women of CDC are able to hunt disease threats across the globe, to save lives and to protect American jobs by ensuring strong economies.”

Pierce Nelson is the vice president for communications for the CDC Foundation.