This Wall Street Journal article was written by Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 to 2017. While COVID-19 preoccupies us at the moment, it is crucial to begin thinking about the next inevitable pandemics. Dr. Frieden explains that in the years after COVID-19, it is likely that another infectious disease, possibly a similar pneumonia-like illness, suddenly emerges. Will we be ready?
During my internship at New York University’s Department of Public Safety, I had an opportunity to learn about emergency management and preparedness. An interesting fact I came across while looking at how individual countries organize themselves in the field of crisis management, is that Austria, a comparably small country with a population of 8 million, has assisted other countries in every major crisis since 2003. I was curious how this impressive track record was made possible.
My enquiry to the Austrian government was kindly answered with an invitation from Dr. Roman Bayer, who I met in Vienna. Dr. Bayer works for the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Government of the Republic of Austria.
I originally created this blog as a way to spread awareness of the importance of public health preparedness, as it was an undervalued and underfunded topic. However, times have changed and public health and emergency management are at the forefront of news and public policy today as a result of COVID-19.
Since the Hong Kong health system is often an important gatekeeper with regard to pandemics, I was interested to find out how the government structures preparedness efforts for both unintentional and intentional biological incidents.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, I spoke to a senior officer who is working for the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). We discussed the Hong Kong Government’s approach to bioterror and public health preparedness.
As the coronavirus spreads around the world, we can only now see the destructive path it has taken and the devastating effects the virus has on economies and lives alike. The damage of the coronavirus has been “quick and enormous – much greater than 9/11 – and worldwide”, with the virus destroying “economies, governments, and technical infrastructures of the world’s most advanced economies”.
An important issue in the public health area today is dual use research and technology, a topic that often remains unspoken about and unknown to the public. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “dual use research of concern (DURC) is life sciences research that is intended for benefit, but which might easily be misapplied to do harm”. Continue Reading
As with many other countries around the world, biodefense and public health planning, surveillance, and response are the responsibilities of numerous intertwined agencies within a country that all have different assignments and responsibilities, yet have to work together to successfully protect a nation from harm.
Last summer, I interviewed a Norwegian public health expert who chose to remain anonymous. She shared with me valuable information regarding the Norwegian Government’s approach to public health. As the Norwegian health system is universal and available to everyone, I was interested to find out how they organize pandemic preparedness and the agencies involved. Continue Reading
All around the world, the structure and security measures for biodefense preparedness vary. Countries have very distinct strategies based on their location, size, and type of government. I was particularly interested in Singapore, a very small country of only 5.8 million residents and 278 square miles, because of its reputation for efficiency and high standards. Therefore, I asked the Singaporean Government if they could share information on their approach to protecting their country from biological threats. Continue Reading
The World Health Organization has recently declared the nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Public-Health Emergency of International Concern. The declaration was made after recent developments in the outbreak made it one of international concern. Continue Reading
Last summer, I met with Dr. Tomoya Saito in Tokyo to learn about outbreak and bioterror preparedness in Japan.
Our conversation will be posted in two parts. Part I (below) is about the role that different Japanese institutions play to prevent and respond to biological threats. In Part II (to be posted soon) we will discuss how dual-use technologies change the risk of biothreats.
Dr. Saito is Chief Senior Researcher at the Department of Health Crisis Management of the National Institute of Public Health of Japan (NIPH). His current area of research is biosecurity, public health emergency preparedness and response, and simulation epidemiology. He is based in Saitama, Japan.