Most Countries Aren’t Prepared for the Next Epidemic

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PreventEpidemics.org Highlights Gaps in Preparedness and Encourages Action to Save Lives

The world will face another unpredictable epidemic, but most countries are not ready to find, stop, and prevent its spread. A new website, PreventEpidemics.org, spotlights gaps in preparedness and highlights actions countries, donors, activists, and organizations can take to fill them.  An infectious disease can spread from one community to any country in the world in just 36 hours, but as PreventEpidemics.org shows, most countries have not yet taken the steps needed to prepare for this risk.

The website is being presented today at the annual Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health Festival by Dr. Tom Frieden, former US CDC Director and now President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, and Amanda McClelland, RN, MPH, its Senior Vice President, who coordinated frontline Ebola response during the 2014 Ebola epidemic.  The website is the first to provide advocacy tools based on each country’s progress towards epidemic preparedness, and a single score that displays how prepared countries are to find, stop and prevent epidemics.

“By the end of this year, nearly 100 countries will have completed a rigorous, transparent assessment of how prepared they are for an epidemic – but there has been too little support from the global community and countries to close life-threatening gaps,” says Dr. Tom Frieden.  “It’s not a matter of if there will be another global epidemic, but when. It’s time for the global community and countries to step up and improve preparedness.”

“The world won’t be safe until we step up by mobilizing and effectively using global, country, and local resources – including money and trained, supported public health staff,” said Amanda McClelland, who served as the Team Lead of Global Epidemic Preparedness of the International Federation of the Red Cross before joining Resolve to Save Lives. “How can we prevent a child in Ukraine from contracting measles, or a nurse in Sub-Saharan Africa from getting Ebola? Our website not only communicates the risk of epidemics at the country level, but, most importantly, encourages action to reduce these risks.”

Resolve to Save Lives partners with countries to help step up preparedness, especially in four critical areas: strengthening disease tracking systems, training and staffing epidemiologists, supporting laboratory networks, and developing effective rapid response teams.

A key feature of PreventEpidemics.org is the ReadyScore, a measure of country preparedness based on existing data from the Joint External Evaluation (JEE), an external assessment developed by the World Health Organization and partner organizations to help countries find and close gaps in epidemic preparedness.  ReadyScore uses JEE data to calculate a numerical score – from 0 to 100 – representing a country’s ability to prepare for and respond to an epidemic.  Resolve to Save Lives considers countries with a ReadyScore above 80 as better prepared for an epidemic, countries between 40 and 79 have work to do, and countries 39 and below are not ready.

These scores can drive action at the country and global level by motivating countries to go up a step in preparedness, overall and by specific area.

PreventEpidemics.org provides advocacy tools, including detailed global and country-level data, highlights of country preparedness strengths and gaps, and action plans to engage with decision makers to improve epidemic preparedness. Advancing toward a world safe from epidemics is central to the new WHO general programme of work, which was approved at the 2018 World Health Assembly.  One of three strategic priorities for 2019-2023 is ensuring that at least one billion more people are safer from health emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.

“Participating in the JEEs has shown true commitment by governments, but hasn’t been matched by a national commitment from the global community and by commitment of budget and human resources,” said Amanda McClelland. “PreventEpidemics.org helps empower advocates to ask their leaders for the human and financial resources needed to fill the thousands of life-threatening gaps identified by the JEE.”

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