It’s not often that preparation for a public health threat is top of mind for the general public. It’s only when a threat reaches the news, as we saw with Ebola, that attention turns. But for those involved in protecting the public, it is constant, and they know the best protection is prevention. This message was repeated time and again at the recent Preparedness Summit hosted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).
The annual summit brings together over 1,600 public health officials, scientists, biopharmaceutical companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders from around the world. The goal is to learn from each other and better understand how together, we can prevent, prepare, respond, and recover from public health threats whether natural or man-made.
This year, leaders and experts from all sectors of government shared research, best practices, and case studies on current topics of interest including hurricanes, floods, infectious disease, and bioterrorism. Many that we heard about in the news… and many we did not.
The summit provides an important opportunity for GSK and others in our industry to engage with government and strengthen our understanding of their preparedness challenges as we develop the medical countermeasures they rely on to keep the public safe. GSK is committed to the research and development required to address unmet health needs and potential threats to our biosecurity. Our portfolio includes a number of approved and investigational medicines and vaccines to treat and address a range of threats such as anthrax, antimicrobial resistance, pandemic flu, and Ebola.
Protecting the public from potential biosecurity threats requires all stakeholders working together. Collaboration can help ensure medicines and vaccines are developed and manufactured, and that infrastructure is in place to move quickly in response to a public health threat that can negatively impact the economy, critical infrastructure, and public confidence.
Preparation today can mitigate future risk and contribute to maintaining, improving, and securing the health of communities around the world. This is where the rubber meets the road for many summit attendees including GSK – how to anticipate, prepare, and respond to public health emergencies. Dr. Nicole Lurie, the US Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, shared how federal agencies are not only involved in health security here in the US, but globally. Rear Admiral Stephen Redd from the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, talked about how international emergencies have domestic implications. This became clear with Ebola.
It is increasingly difficult to prevent a serious public health threat from rapid movement in a highly connected and interdependent world. It is the responsibility of government at all levels to be prepared for such an event, and the responsibility of private industry to seek out, identify, and advocate for opportunities where we can partner with government to prepare for, and meet public health needs. Meetings like the Preparedness Summit are a key component of this collaboration.