Public Health Lessons Learned from the Ebola Outbreak
07 Jul 2015

Public Health Lessons Learned from the Ebola Outbreak

Though the Ebola virus devastated west Africa last year, there have been many lessons learned from healthcare’s response that may have profound long-term effects on the overall industry. Mostly, concerns over the spread of the virus largely focused on rapid detection and diagnosis at a collective level, but these concerns also highlighted individual health security, which derives from access to effective, safe healthcare, according to U.K. Health Protection Agency Chairman of the Board David L. Heymann. The Ebola zone’s lack of effective care access and infection control, Heymann writes, has intertwined the two.

The Ebola crisis put the spotlight on the importance of reducing the vulnerability of societies to infectious disease threats that spread across national borders. The collective aspect of health security has been the focus of attention and the commonly understood conceptualization of health security for centuries, but at the same time Ebola-infected west Africans have had to accept that health care is not always safe, not always effective, and not always accessible and that their own health security is yet again at risk.

As the Ebola epidemic has unfolded substandard infection control and inadequate access to effective health products and services have demonstrated a wider scope of health security than the traditionally accepted version of health security.

The outbreak also demonstrated the need to construct robust public health systems to safeguard against such outbreaks, write Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and coauthors. “We can expect infectious diseases to continue to emerge and re-emerge unpredictably in places where we are not looking–or simply cannot see because of lack of adequate, resilient public health surveillance systems and infrastructure,” they write.

In February 2014 the United States partnered with twenty-eight other nations and numerous health organizations to launch the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). More than thirty-six nations have committed to working toward the GHSA’s 12 technical goals, which include: a national biosecurity system that protects against deadly pathogens, and a medical workforce that includes at least one trained field epidemiologist per 200,000 people.

Lincoln Chen and Keizo Takemi, authors of Ebola: Lessons in Security, write, “the global health community should address future threats to health security comprehensively based on deeper understanding of prevention and remediation of human security. Simply taking the International Health Regulations to a next step would be too weak and too narrow an adjustment.” In our current world, a globalizing world where health interdependence is greater than ever, there is still a window of opportunity to respond more effectively and comprehensively to the wake-up calls, like the Ebola outbreak.

Learn more about what we’ve learned from the Ebola outbreak:



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