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US leadership and sustained funding urgently needed to prevent pandemics

October 23, 2017 by PATH

New PATH report warns that gains from investments to stop Ebola and Zika outbreaks are at risk

Media contact: Kate Davidson | media@path.org

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Washington, DC, October 24, 2017 — Recent progress made in protecting Americans and people around the world from pandemics is at risk of being lost if US support is not sustained, PATH warns in a new report titled "Healthier World, Safer America: A US Government Roadmap for International Action to Prevent the Next Pandemic." Programs established or strengthened with supplemental funding to thwart outbreaks of Ebola and Zika face a drastic cut in funding if the US administration and Congress do not act to protect these investments.

"Unfortunately, global health security funding too often comes in reaction to a crisis rather than ahead of time, when we can make more cost-effective and sustainable investments in systems that help stop disease outbreaks at their source, before they spread to our shores," said Carolyn Reynolds, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at PATH. "The US and the world are just beginning to reap the benefits of efforts made post-Ebola. Now is not the time to step back."

Vital health security programs facing budget cuts

Analysis from the new report estimates that $450 million in the current federal budget is dedicated to internationally-focused health security programs. This amounts to less than 0.1 percent of the total non-defense discretionary budget, with the majority of funds going to the Department of Defense (DoD), followed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Department of State (DoS). If current Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposals in the House and Senate are enacted, these programs will face an average of a 10 percent cut in funding.

Since fiscal year 2015, USAID and CDC programs have received an estimated $1 billion boost from the $5.4 billion total allocated for Ebola response to address the systemic challenges that allowed the outbreak to spread in the first place. These investments have already had a tremendous impact by building essential capacities in some of the world's least developed countries. However, there is much more to do, and PATH's analysis reveals there is a huge opportunity cost to halting the progress that has been achieved to date.

"US leadership and funding has catalyzed significant global progress on pandemic prevention since the Ebola crisis, and has mobilized more than 60 nations to strengthen preparedness through the Global Health Security Agenda," Reynolds said. "Yet US support has relied heavily on supplemental funds that are soon slated to disappear. The US Administration and Congress must maintain its leadership position backed up by the necessary resources to ensure continued vigilance against emerging pandemic threats, both at home and abroad."

PATH welcomes recent commitments US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior US government officials to the GHSA and call to extend it to 2024. The new report urges several actions. Most urgently, the GHSA commitment must be backed with a funding commitment, which should be grounded in a US strategic plan that prioritizes support to build prevention capabilities in low- and middle-income countries where outbreaks are most likely to start.

Capabilities include better disease surveillance and laboratory capabilities to enable early detection of new pathogens, and national emergency operations centers that can mobilize rapid response. Secondly, the plan should include measurable indicators for progress and senior-level US government oversight. The US should also exercise its leadership in multilateral forums to encourage continued engagement from other nations and non-governmental partners, including the private sector.

Research & development essential to protecting health security

PATH's analysis also highlights the importance of US investments to develop a robust pipeline of new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, and other technologies for diseases likely to become pandemics. It highlights several ways the US government can provide catalytic funding and add or expand incentives to encourage the private sector to invest in development of products for emerging diseases. The US government can ensure the tools necessary to stop outbreaks are ready when we need them.

To learn more about how the US government is advancing global health security and what is needed to ensure this progress continues, read the report here.

For expert interviews, please contact media@path.org