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GCSP addresses challenges in Global Health Security

How can the Global Health Security Agenda become more accessible?

From 29 January – 1 February, the GCSP hosted 28 participants on the ‘Addressing Challenges in Global Health Security’ course. This is the third edition of the course sponsored by the Swiss Government and it welcomed 28 participants from around the world to the GCSP.

Course director, Dr Johanna Ralston, GCSP Associate Fellow and CEO of the World Obesity Foundation, commented on the importance of the course: ‘Three years after the establishment of the Global Health Security Agenda, there are more players but also greater risks of complacency, challenges associated with a changing global health environment, and the need to do a better and more transparent job of working in a coordinated fashion across different sectors.’

The course created a space for these importance issues to be discussed amongst practitioners and academics. Several key items dominating global health security were discussed in the course including:

-        Emerging Health Security Threats

-        Biorisks Management

-        Outbreak Control and Crisis Response Mechanisms

-        Global Health Governance

-        Joint External Evaluation (JEE) Evaluations and Challenges

-        National Laboratory Systems

-        Crisis Management

-        Partnerships in Global Health Security

-        Research and development


Emerging Health Security Threats led by Dr Wenqing Zhang, Manager of Global Influenza Programme at the World Health Organisation (WHO). This included an on-site visit at the WHO to explore climate change, health security research in the Global Influenza Programme.

‘Biorisks Management’ with Dr Filippa Lentzos, Senior Research Fellow  in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine  at King’s College, London. She discussed the spectrum of biorisks including the history, characteristics and essential facts pertaining to bioterrorism. She proposed modernising the Biological Weapons Convention stating that ‘advances in science like genome editing and potentially pandemic work are erasing red lines. Couple that with geopolitics lowering barriers to biological weapon development and use, and the lack of repercussions for use of chemical weapons in Syria, and biological weapons have a very real possibility of being brought back on the table.’

Outbreak Control and Crisis Response Mechanisms taught by Dr Gilles Poumerol, the former Acting Chief for the International Health Regulations (IHR) Secretariat and Global Functions for the WHO and current GCSP Associate Fellow. He shared his experience of response during the Ebola Crisis. Outbreak zones, emergency health committees made of up of health experts, international organisations and nation- states all have processes that should comply with IHR including preparation, reporting, coordinating, supporting, monitoring, surveillance, case management and research.

Professor Mika Salminen, Director of the Department of Health Security THL, at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland created the space for participants to explore the challenges of Joint External Evaluation (JEE).

Global Health Governance led by course director, Dr Johanna Ralston, focused on understanding the impact of global health governance and finance sharing that 75% of the WHO budget comes from three donors. This topic is essential as it is linked to WHO structural and organisational changes in 2014 and 2017 which has directly impacted global issues including dealing with the Ebola crisis.

National Laboratory Systems were explored with Dr Marc Cadisch, Director of Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland. He highlighted the importance of humanitarian coordination, surveillance and understanding WHO System Control.

Interactive exercises on the health dimension of Crisis Management allowed participants to develop practical skills in health crisis management. This practical learning experience  focusing on risk evaluation was led by Mr David Horobin, Crisis Management expert at the GCSP and former Head of the Crisis Management Unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

‘Partnerships in Global Health Security,’ led by Mr Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries and System Initiative, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum and Dr Suerie Moon, Director of Research, Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies focused on dropping the silos between private/public  and profit/non-profit sectors. They engaged in open dialogue with participants and covered the importance of health technologies, addressing complexities, the creation of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and neutral actors.

Mr Arnaud Bernaert said, ‘Keeping conflicting interests in balance during a long period of time is what needs to happen and I think this is nothing else but diplomacy and dialogue.’

Different approaches to research and development were discussed during an on-site visit to the Geneva Hospital Laboratories where Dr Angela Huttner, Research Investigator and Infectious Disease Physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Geneva Hospital and Dr Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Team Leader for Implementation Research at the Initiative for Vaccine Research at the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, at the WHO. Topics including immunization and vaccines, health emergencies, and infectious diseases were discussed and an interactive learning experience of how hospital labs prepare for and respond to health emergencies facilitated the opportunity for ‘knowledge meeting experience.’

This course sits under GCSP’s Human Security cluster at the GCSP. The next course offered on Health Security will be with Dr Gilles Poumerol in Dakar, Senegal (in French) from 24-26 April.  

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