In 2009, the influenza virus called H1N1 emerged in the United States and swiftly worked its way around the world, creating the first pandemic in decades. We learned that Mother Nature can be an efficient bioterrorist. From that global response as well as other nations’ responses to emerging infectious diseases and man-made terrorism – from bombings to chemical weapons – we’ve seen the advantages in collaborating with partner countries. Working together to strengthen global health security helps us become better prepared at home to respond to natural and man-made threats.
On February 24, the European Commission hosted the 17th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI ) in Brussels, Belgium. Ministers of health and delegations from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, along with leaders from the European Commission and the World Health Organization came together to continue their work on strengthening global health security.
The GHSI network is a crucial forum to collaborate on solutions to global health security threats. Since 2001, these nations have worked together to share the lessons learned from past crises and to prepare for future challenges.
This year’s ministerial meeting focused on increasing global preparedness in the event of a disease outbreak with pandemic potential and response to both conventional terrorist attacks and those with a chemical, biological, and radiological/nuclear component. During the meeting, the deputy director of Europol, W. Van Gemert, emphasized the need for engagement between the health and security sectors.
The GHSI has a proven track record of collaborating to develop concrete processes that help protect global health security. For example, GHSI has acknowledged the work done to develop a voluntary agreement to facilitate the rapid sharing of non-influenza biological materials among GHSI members during a potential or actual public health emergency. This process was used in 2016 as GHSI partners worked together to share Zika virus and serum samples to develop and decentralize diagnostic capacity.
Additionally, GHSI partners agreed to reduce threats by exchanging information and best practices. They are strengthening technical collaboration with the security sector on a range of health sector preparedness and response measures. GHSI partners also recognized the importance of continuing our support to the international community as we work together to reduce the gaps in global capacities to respond to health emergencies. GHSI members pledged to provide expertise to advance the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) worldwide.
As global health threats continue to evolve and change in an interconnected world, our partnerships enable us to work better together to prepare for and respond effectively to public health threats.
The full summary of key meeting outcomes can be found in the Ministerial Communiqué .
For more information on HHS’ and ASPR’s roles in global health security, visit the Office of Global Health, International Partnerships and The Global Health Security Initiative.