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Diseases do not respect borders, which makes health a global concern. An infectious disease can spread from a local threat to one that puts entire countries or continents at risk.
Outbreaks can throw the regular functions of a society into disarray – resources are diverted to medical efforts, the workforce is compromised and any of kind of movement in or out of the infected area is tightly restricted.
Since health is a global issue, we cannot count ourselves safe until every vulnerable population has a resilient health system that can stop an epidemic from turning into a pandemic.
The Global Health Security Agenda
The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was formed in 2014 by the United States and, over time, through the partnership of 50 countries, in order to spur the international community to act on the International Health Regulations (IHR) affirmed by the World Health Organization in 2007. These regulations are meant to improve countries’ capacities to protect their populations against infectious diseases by strengthening their health systems through strategic partnerships that bring together a diverse set of community players.
Recognizing that an unstable society cannot grow, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said, “Health security is a necessary foundation for countries to make strides in other areas,” including economic advancement.
Countries that join the GHSA agree to build safe, secure, and strong laboratories; a well-trained workforce; multi-sectoral collaboration; reliable disease surveillance systems; and a command structure in the case of an epidemic. They pull together all of society to meet these goals.
Entrepreneurs can support this work. Research needs funding from the private sector. Classic business skills like product delivery and market research can improve the chances that patients get the medical care they need. The global health security community is looking to up-and-coming leaders in the private sector to invest in the health of their countries to help meet the global agenda for a healthy and secure future.
The Next Generation
At the Grand Challenges meeting of 2017, Secretary Tillerson told a room full of global health and development experts that, “We also need to ensure the commitment and interest of non-governmental stakeholders, including the private sector, by making the business case for investments in health security.”
The GHSA created the Next Generation Global Health Security Network (NextGen) to harness the potential of early and mid-stage professionals and students for the benefit of global health security. NextGen fosters working relationships between young leaders in the private and public sectors to lay the groundwork for international partnerships that are essential for any global health emergency response.
NextGen Network members share novel ideas in healthcare policy and delivery, using new technology and research. The outcome is to create non-traditional solutions to common health problems that can guide current and future decision-makers in the case of a global health emergency.
Join the Next Generation
The U.S. Department of State is working to increase non-governmental and private sector engagement in health security. Its goal is to see at least two young professionals join the NextGen Network in each country across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the NextGen Network, the 2018 Infectious Disease Map It! Challenge is calling on university students and young professionals to make a tangible impact by generating maps to conduct practical research on public health. Finalists will be invited to debrief government leaders and policy makers on their work.
You can also fulfill your YLAI Health and Wellness pledge by joining the NextGen GHS Network. The Network accepts applications for new members year-round. Members can participate in the NextGen mentorship program, access exclusive webinars, or join the Technology Team. Want to launch a NextGen Regional Working Group for Latin America or the Caribbean? Email NextGen coordinator, Dr. Jamechia Hoyle at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on membership.