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Global Community Must Change ‘Outbreak Culture,’ Favor Readiness To Ensure Global Health Security

STAT: ‘Outbreak culture’ can derail effective responses to deadly epidemics
Lara Salahi, journalist and assistant professor of broadcast and digital journalism at Endicott College, and Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology, infectious diseases, and evolutionary biology at Harvard University

“…In 2015, as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had begun to slow down, we conducted an anonymous survey of more than 200 local and foreign Ebola responders about their experiences during the height of the epidemic. Nearly all of those surveyed mentioned that political and interpersonal challenges at times slowed their responses. Many said they feared the politics more than the virus. More than a quarter reported either witnessing, hearing about, or falling victim to illegal or unethical tactics while responding to the outbreak. … The creation of what we call ‘outbreak culture’ is driven by multiple factors, from political motivation and life-threatening fear to personal gain and isolation. … Shifting outbreak culture to a collective mindset, aligned incentives, and practices that favor collaboration will determine the strength of our ability to respond as threats increase from natural outbreaks, drug-resistant infections, and bioterrorism. … Subsequent epidemics should be met with readiness perpetuated by universal guiding principles and a global governing structure. If the global mindset does not change to favor readiness over response, dysfunction will persist. … The world is in need of a centralized governing structure dedicated to global health security that mirrors [a] military-style approach in both readiness and response. … [W]e must acknowledge that … devastation can and will happen … unless everyone involved in global health security strives to form a new — and positive — outbreak culture” (12/17).