Epidemics are inevitable, but there are ways we can mitigate how and to what extent they affect communities across the globe. While there's no magic bullet, the most important thing is to make sure patient and community needs remain at the center of the response. Quick reaction, adaptability and flexibility are some of the main factors for success in an emergency response.
While international medical experts are able to make a significant impact during emergencies, governments play the greatest role in protecting their populations. It's up to them to make people's health a priority, as well as ensure that health workers are protected and hospitals are safe. International support is also essential when battling diseases like measles, malaria and Ebola. Diseases affect people indiscriminately, and so countries should prepare and respond to public health concerns even if a disease hasn't yet reached their communities or is not likely to become a pandemic.
Bottom line: Investing in health nationally is as essential as having the political courage to declare an outbreak and accept external assistance.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Anne Rimoin, epidemiologist, UCLA: We need to study outbreaks in real-time
- Peter Hotez, pediatrician and dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine: Protect the "soft underbelly" of the U.S.
- Ali Khan, public health expert and dean, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center: Pandemics are as dangerous as war