A “Whole of Society” Approach Can Overcome Global Health Challenges

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins discusses the importance of Global Health Security in this week’s blog.  As Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the State Department, I have spent a great deal of my time over the past two years working on global health security.  I didn’t come into the job thinking this would be the case, having spent most of my career working on issues related to more traditional weapons of mass destruction, but what I have come to realize in just a few short years is that the threat posed by the spread of infectious diseases is one of the greatest challenges confronting our world today.  
Fortunately, President Obama recognized early on the importance of global health to our national security. Thanks to his foresight, Secretary Kerry and the heads of other relevant departments and agencies have been given the mandate and the funding to raise the profile of global health and to engage with partners at home and abroad on strengthening systems aimed at reducing health threats. 
In February 2014, we worked with partner nations from around the globe to launch the Global Health Security Agenda, a multilateral and multi-sectoral initiative aimed at enhancing global capacities to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats. Those efforts have already begun to bear fruit in the form of 11 concrete Action Packages, a series of country roadmaps and external assessments, and a near doubling of membership from 28 to 54 countries in just 20 short months. 
Unfortunately, for some nations, global health security remains an issue of lesser consequence, despite the lessons of the recent Ebola crisis. This lack of attention can translate into lack of funding. For that reason, I have also actively promoted the involvement of non-governmental stakeholders (NGS), including foundations and businesses, to spur greater cooperation and help fill gaps in needed programming.  
As part of those efforts, I was pleased to participate in CRDF Global’s Global Health Security Briefing on Capitol Hill. The work of the NGS on global health security is proof positive of the contributions that a “whole of society” approach can make to overcoming the challenges posed by infectious disease threats in our modern and ever-more interconnected world.