The Private Sector’s Role in Ensuring Global Health Security
“Global health security continues to be an absolutely critical area of focus for governments, international organizations, and for non-government stakeholders including the private sector…We know that outbreaks can start anywhere, can spread rapidly across the globe, and have potentially devastating consequences. Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise, and as a result, we must be prepared for all types of disease events.” –US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, at the World Health Assembly side event, “International Health Regulations and Global Health Security.”
As the world faces increased globalization, climate change, and the emergence of health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, it is only a matter of time before the next pandemic strikes. Proactive prevention and preparedness efforts will be far more effective than a reactive response – both in terms of lives saved and costs avoided. For this reason, health security must be elevated to the top of the global agenda.
The increasing frequency and severity of disease outbreaks pose a growing threat to health and compromise economic development around the world. Low and middle-income countries with weaker health infrastructures are particularly vulnerable, as they are least able to protect against emerging health threats. This was evident with the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which saw a loss of 11,000 lives and $2.8 billion in GDP losses in the countries hit hardest.
The private sector is uniquely positioned to partner with countries to deliver innovative and effective prevention and preparedness solutions to these types of global health threats.
Why should the private sector get involved with global health security?
- The private sector has the resources, expertise, and unique ability to scale up efforts. Expanding existing business capabilities in new regions creates new opportunities and promotes economic development.
- Many private sector industries have a presence in regions most vulnerable to health threats. The private sector already works in these regions, and thus has an obligation to protect the workforce, communities, and environments in which they operate. Additionally, the private sector can leverage proven interventions from other regions where they operate, in a way that may be more challenging for individual countries to do alone.
- Beyond the business case to invest in health security, private companies are made up of individuals who are invested in the health and well-being of others. Many companies are now moving to integrate corporate responsibility into their regular business operations, reflecting changing attitudes when it comes to leveraging business and scientific expertise to help move the needle on complex global health challenges.
What can the private sector do?
The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a multi-sector, country-led initiative launched in 2014 to strengthen countries’ capacity to prevent, detect and respond to global health threats. Within the GHSA, the Private Sector Roundtable serves as a focal point for private sector actors interested in helping countries to reach the goals of the GHSA and help prevent and respond to global health threats.
The Private Sector Roundtable sees the role of the private sector going beyond the traditional donation model in humanitarian emergencies, instead deploying available technical expertise and strategic capabilities, such as in the areas of logistics and supply chain management, information and communications technology, and data management. Member companies are committed to leveraging their resources and capabilities in this effort, working collaboratively and with GHSA partner countries to protect the communities in which they operate, as well as employees and their families, and to ensure economic continuity in times of crisis.
The Private Sector Roundtable is co-chaired by Dr. David Barash, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of Global Health, GE Foundation and Dr. Alan Tennenberg, Chief Medical Officer, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, and includes companies such as Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Intel. Rabin Martin serves as the secretariat.
Interested in engaging on issues in global health security or joining the Private Sector Roundtable? Contact us to learn more.
As the world faces increased globalization, climate change, and the emergence of health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, it is only a matter of time before the next pandemic strikes. The private sector is uniquely positioned to partner with countries to deliver innovative solutions to emerging global health threats.
I have been working in global health for more than 25 years, in a variety of roles in the research-based pharmaceutical industry, in leadership positions in non-governmental organizations, and today as head of a global health strategy firm that works at the intersection of public health and private industry to help advance the health of millions around the world.
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