White House report touts Global Health Security Agenda's successes, even as funding cuts loom

The White House has issued a report that highlights the successes thus far of a global health program aimed at preventing pandemics, even as it considers scaling back its investment in such initiatives. 

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) launched under the Obama administration, but the Trump administration "has strongly championed" the program as well, it said in an announcement. The report (PDF), according to the White House, "clearly shows how investments made by taxpayers to improve global health security are paying dividends." 

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GHSA received an initial $1 billion in funding as part of the emergency Ebola response spending package approved in 2015. Although President Donald Trump had proposed providing an additional $50 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue these initiatives, it falls far short of what advocates were hoping for. 

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The budget also include major decreases in funding for USAID and to other CDC programs, which is a concern for public health experts, said Carolyn Reynolds, vice president of policy and advocacy at PATH, in an interview with FierceHealthcare. 

"This work is incredibly important, and these investments work together," Reynolds said. "A little money goes a long way." 

The GHSA was created because the Ebola epidemic in 2014 exposed the fact that there were still significant vulnerabilities in the global health response to such outbreaks.

"The devastating Ebola outbreak helped the world realize how vulnerable we were and still are," said Tim Ziemer, the National Security Council's senior director for global health security and biothreats, at an event marking the launch of the group's report that put a spotlight on the issue.

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U.S. investments in the global health agenda help bring other countries to the table, Reynolds said. U.S. dollars have gone toward helping other countries build the health systems that can prevent outbreaks like Ebola, according to the report. 

The funding also helps build global surveillance systems to monitor emerging threats. Reynolds said that there are thousands of emerging pathogens that have been identified, and millions more awaiting identification. 

The GHSA at present puts too little focus on research and development to prepare for these emerging diseases, she said, and further scaling back funding could impact those efforts. 

"It's really staggering in terms of the threats that are out there," Reynolds said. 

A video of the launch event is embedded below: