Pandemic Preparedness is More Important Than Ever
Pandemics and other infectious disease threats can arise quickly, spread rapidly, and harm health, economic, and national security
Investing in national and regional capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging infectious diseases can reduce the overall cost to human lives and economies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the devastating potential of novel infectious disease threats. Beyond the health and social impacts of a life-threatening pathogen, the economic disruption can be profound. Previous estimates  have placed a $570 billion annual price tag on pandemic response – a figure we now know can vastly underestimate true costs, with COVID-19 projected to cost the global economy between $9 trillion and $33 trillion. Investing in preparedness seems to be the straightforward alternative, estimated at $70 billion to $120 billion over the next two years and $20 billion to $40 billion annually afterwards – a fraction of the cost of pandemic response . There is no question that pandemic threats will continue to emerge in the context of increasing global travel and trade, human-animal-environment interactions, and urbanization. Given these concerning trends, countless analyses and reports have underscored the importance of investing in preparedness and outlined recommendations towards the goal of universal health security.
Despite the clear returns on preparedness, securing sustainable financing has proven challenging. Global attention and support for preparedness tend to wane soon after epidemics fade from memory in what has been termed a vicious cycle of panic and neglect . Challenges for long-term financing for preparedness include competition for resources and the complexity of coordinating efforts across multiple, often disjointed public and private entities. Health security is also inextricably linked to health systems, complicating assessments of risk and making it difficult to target investments. Inclusion of multisectoral and non-traditional stakeholders in prevention, detection, and response activities can promote more sustainable investments and more efficient responses to outbreaks. Through its focus on multisectorality and coordinated action, GHSA helps to promote investment on building and maintaining critical capacities for preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on GHS and Sustainable Financing
Why should investments in global health security be prioritized?
Investing in global health security means investing in national capacities to prevent, detect, and respond infectious diseases, as well as other global health security threats. As the COVID-19 pandemic and other outbreaks and pandemics have demonstrated, the cost of response is far greater than the cost of prevention. Financing global health security – particularly core functions such as surveillance, prevention, treatment, and control – produces large societal benefits.
When governments fail to invest in health security, everyone is at heightened risk of preventable losses like those associated with pandemics, ongoing epidemics, and emerging outbreaks. Addressing these fundamental gaps should be first priorities for government interventions and can also address challenges on the path towards resilient health systems.
What are the steps countries can take to invest in global health security?
Global health security begins with identifying country-level preparedness gaps and developing a plan to address them. Tools like the Joint External Evaluation (JEE)  and Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) evaluation  allow countries to assess their current capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. Once gaps are identified, the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) framework  and WHO Benchmarks for IHR Capacities  can assist countries with planning and prioritizing next steps to strengthen their capacities, including considerations for cost and implementation. Financing health security plans requires making a case for preparedness and developing a detailed financing proposal. Finally, domestic resource mobilization, supplemented by external assistance when necessary, is key to sustaining investments for preparedness. The Sustainable Financing for Preparedness Action Package Working Group works to identify successful practices, tools, and messages that support the translation of health security plans into action – learn more under “Our Work in GHSA.”
- World Economic Forum. 2019. Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact: Protecting Lives and Livelihoods across the Global Economy.
- McKinsey & Company. 2020. Not the last pandemic: Investing now to reimagine public-health systems.
- World Bank International Working Group on Financing Preparedness. 2017. From Panic and Neglect to Investing in Health Security: Financing Pandemic Preparedness at a National Level.
- World Health Organization. 2019. Joint External Evaluation tool (JEE tool) – second edition.
- World Organisation for Animal Health. 2019. OIE Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services.
- World Health Organization. 2019. NAPHS for ALL – A Country Implementation Guide for NAPHS.
- World Health Organization. 2019. WHO benchmarks for International Health Regulations (IHR) capacities.