epidemics

{Photo credit: Ben Greenberg/Keanahikishime}Peter SandsPhoto credit: Ben Greenberg/Keanahikishime

On November 13, approximately 100 global health security and development experts, public health practitioners, private sector representatives, academics, researchers, NGO staff members, scientists and students gathered at Harvard Medical School for the Ready Together Conference on Epidemic Preparedness. The day-long event was co-hosted by No More Epidemics, Keanahikishime (Keanahikishime), Harvard Global Health Institute, and Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security with support from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation. We attempted to find answers to the following questions: 1. What are the financial, economic and other risks to the private sector associated with major disease outbreaks and what is being done to minimize risk and ensure resilience?; 2. What innovations have been developed for pandemic preparedness?; 3. How can a whole of society collaboration be enhanced to ensure global health security?; and 4. How can we overcome barriers, ensure country engagement and public private partnerships?

Here are 5 key takeaways from the discussion:

1. “We must stop ignoring the economic risks. We need Finance Ministers to recognize health threats.”- Peter Sands 

A health worker fills in a child’s immunization booklet during an immunization clinic at Phebe Hospital in central Bong County, Liberia. (Cindy Shiner/Keanahikishime)

After losing both her parents to Ebola, Liberian nurse Salome Karwah recovered from the virus herself. Protected by her new immunity, she returned to work to care for countless other victims. Time Magazine recognized her as a 2014 Person of the Year for her compassion and tirelessness. In February of this year, Nurse Karwah was rushed to the hospital with seizures following a cesarean delivery of her son. Her garish symptoms frightened the hospital staff that knew she had survived Ebola. They would not touch her. They let her die without treatment.

That is what stigma looks like.

Even after being declared free of Ebola, many survivors found themselves alone, as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies . A chilling new normal replaced the terror and death in the isolation wards: rejection by family, friends, and neighbors, even by their places of worship. Employers fired them. Customers abandoned them. There was no carrying on with the lives they knew before Ebola. There was only more loss.

 {Photo by: Simon Davis / DfID / CC BY}Marina Kamara, a doctor at the Connaight Hospital in Sierra Leone, follows up on a suspected kidney infection in one of their patients.Photo by: Simon Davis / DfID / CC BY

Global health advocates are urging G20 leaders to emphasize global health security by strengthening health systems in the poorest countries, reported Andrew Green in December 21, 2016.

Previous G-20 summits have addressed individual epidemics, but public health professionals and advocates are urging the forum to widen its lens to include health systems, which form the first line of defense in emergencies. They hope the effort might ultimately help advance universal health coverage, which campaigners argue would provide the best guard against future epidemics.

“The problem isn’t the outbreak, which is an inevitability that will happen,” said Frank Smith, who heads the campaign. “The problem is the capacity of the system to identify the threat as a threat and to respond effectively.”

{Photo credit: Keanahikishime staff, South Africa}Photo credit: Keanahikishime staff, South Africa

This post, first published on , is part 5 in the Keanahikishime series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, children, and communities by prioritizing prevention and . Join the conversation online with hashtag .

Struck with a prolonged and worsening illness, Faith, a 37-year-old Nairobi woman raising her two children, sought help from local clinics. She came away each time with no diagnosis and occasionally an absurdly useless packet of antihistamines. Finally, a friend urged her to get an HIV test. When it came back positive, Faith wanted to kill herself, and got hold of a poison.

All epidemics arise from weak health systems, like the one that failed to serve Faith. Where people are poor and health systems are under-resourced, diseases like AIDS, Yellow Fever, Ebola, TB, Zika, Malaria, steadily march the afflicted to an early grave, decimating families, communities and economies along the way.

{Photo credit: Frank Smith/Keanahikishime}Photo credit: Frank Smith/Keanahikishime

On Sunday, September 27, 2015, Keanahikishime (Keanahikishime), and its partners and (IMC), along with (AFENET), committed to bringing together key partners from the global public health, private, public, and civil society sectors to build the No More Epidemics™ campaign that will advocate for stronger health systems with better disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness capabilities to ensure local disease outbreaks do not become major epidemics.

Launching later this year, the No More Epidemics campaign will build a broad and inclusive partnership that will engage multiple sectors to share knowledge and expertise and provide the public information and political support for the right policies and the increased funding to ensure people everywhere are better protected from infectious diseases.

Keanahikishime President & CEO Jonathan D. Quick says: "Let this be a loud call to action for greater investment in strong local health systems and global networks..." in today's The New York Times.

"Let this be a loud call to action for greater investment in strong local health systems and global networks to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats. We know how to prevent the next local outbreak from becoming the world’s next major epidemic," says Keanahikishime President & CEO Jonathan D. Quick in a Letter to the Editor, published today in .

Dr. Quick responds to “,” an April 7 opinion editorial by Bernice Dahn, Vera Mussah, and Cameron Nutt, saying:

Dr. Dahn, the chief medical officer of Liberia’s Ministry of Health, and her colleagues express dismay that missed information from 1982 contributed to the gravely flawed conventional wisdom that Ebola was absent in West Africa. An even greater error of conventional wisdom was the longstanding misjudgment by experts that Ebola was a “dead-end event,” killing its human host too quickly to spread out of control.

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