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Editorials, Opinion Piece Discuss Reforms To Strengthen WHO’s Responses To Ebola, Other Disease Outbreaks

The Lancet: Ebola: lessons for future pandemics
Editorial Board

“…[A report from the Harvard-London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola] endorses 10 recommendations across four themes: preventing major outbreaks, responding to outbreaks, research, and governing a global health system that has overall stewardship responsibility for disease outbreaks. Of the 10, some already have political momentum, such as the creation of a global financing facility for outbreak-related research and development; others will not require substantial funds but can be implemented quickly, such as establishing a freedom of information policy within [the] WHO. The message from the panel’s discussion event in London this week was clear: there is a moral obligation to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated in the future. Strong political will to rebuild confidence, internationally and nationally, is needed. But the global health community also has a shared responsibility to not only learn the lessons from the West African Ebola outbreak but also to show leadership in the future” (11/28).

New York Times: What It Will Take to Fight the Next Epidemic
Editorial Board

“…Chief among [the Harvard-LSHTM report’s recommendations to bolster the WHO’s response against disease outbreaks] was a call for leadership at the top of the organization that is willing to confront political leaders who go into early denial about the presence of diseases to protect their economies and head off public panic, thereby feeding epidemics. … The report also recommended the creation of a separate unit at the center of the WHO for combating infectious diseases, with its own budget and accountability, as well as more global funding of research. Above all, the study found the world as a whole needs a focused strategy, clearer standards, and a rapid response to future threats, one with transparent management. … [T]he new report makes it clear that wholesale changes must be made, and quickly, before the next epidemic threatens an increasingly interconnected world” (11/26).

Washington Post: Everything went wrong in the Ebola outbreak. We’re still not ready if it happens again.
Editorial Board

“…[The Harvard-LSHTM report] describes a cascade of failures and serves as a reminder that the existing methods of coping with infectious disease outbreaks are fragmented and fragile. The panel … found that during the Ebola outbreak, the WHO fell down in all of its core functions: helping nations build up health care capacity, providing early warning, establishing technical norms, and mobilizing resources. … [T]he panel recommends bolstering the WHO’s ability to respond quickly, including with a worldwide research and development fund for diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines for diseases that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry. … It is also essential that governments give early warning of disease, regardless of the consequences. Response teams must take into account not only health and science concerns but also the beliefs, traditions, cultures, and fears of local populations…” (11/28).

The Guardian: Ebola overwhelmed the World Health Organization: it must never happen again
Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa at the WHO

“…At the 65th session of the WHO regional committee for Africa in N’Djamena, Chad, health ministers and senior officials from WHO Afro’s 47 member states endorsed a transformation agenda … [to] make WHO Afro the responsive, transparent, and effective health agency the region needs and deserves. Our reform efforts focus on four key areas. We will promote and instill shared values … We will focus the technical work of the WHO secretariat on the region’s most important health problems … We will build responsive strategic operations and strengthen management capacity to improve the way in which resources are matched to pressing health challenges. And we will enhance strategic partnerships and more effectively articulate and communicate our contribution to health development across the region. … WHO Afro stands ready to lead in this new era…” (11/26).

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