We are living through a time of transition in the global health world. A multitude of environmental and behavioral patterns have led to an increase in the frequency and types of disease outbreaks occurring over the last several decades. The recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika have shed light on how poorly prepared countries across the globe are for these types of threats. Furthermore, with a new United Nations secretary-general having just assumed office, the World Health Organization director-general election upon us and the change in leadership of various national governments, questions about how new leaders will prioritize competing and urgent health needs abound.
In our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, we hope that health security will remain a key issue on the agendas of our premier international organizations and governments. However, we recognize that sustainable change to strengthen systems to prevent, detect and respond to health security threats will require collaborations that reach beyond global governance bodies; it will demand the engagement of actors across all sectors and across various industries.
The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) has helped to elevate the issue of health security and, with support from the JEE Alliance and other partners, mobilize countries to evaluate and address some of the most pressing gaps. Having passed the halfway point of this initiative, it is critical to leverage its momentum to put sustainable systems into place – through multilateral organizations and through bringing in new partners – to strengthen countries’ health security capabilities.
We are proud to co-chair a private sector coalition that works to support countries in reaching the goals of the GHSA. The GHSA Private Sector Roundtable (PSRT) is a growing partnership currently comprised of nearly 20 companies from across industries, and serves as the central touchpoint for private sector actors interested in engaging in global health security. Stakeholders from GHSA countries, multilateral organizations and other entities have reiterated, time and again, that the private sector is a critical partner in achieving health security, and the PSRT is working to expand partnerships with these stakeholders and offer support to accelerate progress.
Private companies have the resources and expertise to contribute to strengthening health security in a variety of capacities, and they have an imperative to protect their employees and communities in which they operate across the world. The private sector can leverage a wide range of capabilities, from innovative data collection technologies to enhance disease surveillance, to supply chain management practices to improve the storage and delivery of essential health supplies, to their vast geographic presence and workforces to deploy personnel, resources and expertise for emergency response. Many companies are already engaged, making up a pattern of various health and health-related provisions in the low- and middle-income countries that are disproportionately burdened by these health threats.
For example, the PSRT Technology & Analytics Working Group, headed by Intel Corporation, has developed an online application powered by Qlik Technologies’ software to track and view the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) scoring. Using this tool, data that lives in the detailed JEE reports can now be visualized in interactive charts, graphs and maps that will make it easier to compare a country’s health security capabilities over time and identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. With a deeper understanding of countries’ real capacities, we can better direct health systems strengthening efforts. We believe in the tremendous power of data for decision-making and hope that this tool will be a valuable resource to all GHSA stakeholders moving forward.
With uptick in disease epidemics around the world and the rate at which they spread beyond national borders, we should recognize not only the new risks, but also the new opportunities to work together. Cross-sector collaboration is important now, more than ever, in the midst of political and environmental changes. The ability of and imperative for the private sector to mobilize and take action is unparalleled and there is tremendous potential to develop new and far-reaching public-private partnerships to advance global health security.