Why Public-Private Partnerships Strengthen Our Public Health Response

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important it is that the public and private sectors join together during an emergency response. The different sectors all have their own expertise and resources that when united have a more powerful effect. During this time, we have seen uncommon partners collaborate to make a stronger impact where we need it most—saving lives. The CDC Foundation’s President and CEO Dr. Judy Monroe recently participated in a workshop hosted by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine titled “Public-Private Partnership Responses to COVID-19 and Future Pandemics.”

Dr. Monroe was joined by Rebecca Martin, PhD., director of the Center for Global Health (CGH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for this important discussion about the public-private partnership (PPP) response during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to adapt a broader global health security agenda to address future pandemics. Pandemics are a universal problem and ultimately affect everyone. The objective of this workshop was to look at PPP pandemic responses through a new lens to determine how they have made a difference in the past globally and how we can use PPPs to save lives in the future.

The workshop session focused on how intermediary organizations, governments, and the private sector are working together to develop much-needed practices that will help us guide public health practitioners. For instance, Dr. Monroe noted that the CDC Foundation was among the first foundations in the nation to activate its emergency response fund in an effort to be in front of COVID-19, and this action has provided valuable lessons in activating immediately versus waiting for community spread.

However, the private sector has not always been actively engaged in public health issues. Dr. Monroe believes the pandemic has awakened the private sector partners that have never before engaged in public health, but she noted that they are now working towards long-term partnerships. “The private sector is working with us to problem solve. We have scientifically-based guidance from CDC, but we need to practically apply it in the field. The private sector has the expertise to help us build out that practical guidance.”

This points to the larger vision that we all need each other—government, private organizations, non-governmental organization—to make an impact. Dr. Martin noted “the sum of our parts is greater than the individual.” She also conveyed that “we partner to strengthen public health response and preparing and preventing disease outbreaks is the most efficient way to stop pandemics from happening in the future.”

In Dr. Monroe’s closing remarks, she noted “I have come to believe trust is what we need at this time, and the only thing that moves faster than a virus is trust. How we have been able to quickly respond has been years in the making.”

You can watch the webinar in its entirety to learn more about PPP pandemic responses here.

Photo of Amy Tolchinsky
Amy Tolchinsky is the communications director for the CDC Foundation.