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Center for Health Security gathers experts to address health security challenges in South Asia

Health Security in South Asia

By Nick Alexopulos | Sept. 28, 2018

At the latest meeting in a series of international biosecurity dialogues hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, conversations on scientific and policy issues related to South Asia followed a pragmatic theme: infectious disease outbreaks are inevitable, pandemics are optional. Having the tools to stop infectious disease outbreaks from spiraling into pandemics requires advance planning and international collaboration.

The Center brought together experts and stakeholders from academia, nongovernmental institutions, multilateral organizations, the private sector, and the governments of Pakistan, India, and the United States for the one-day July 2018 event in Washington, DC, to discuss health security challenges in South Asia and to identify opportunities for participants to collaborate on solutions. South Asia, which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, is home to 1.8 billion people living in densely populated communities that have a similar health security threat profile.

“South Asian countries face a number of shared challenges, including populations with similar biological disease risks, health surveillance limitations, and concerns about emerging or reemerging infectious diseases,” the Center wrote in its summary meeting report.

In addition, “globalization has greatly increased the pace and severity of infectious disease outbreaks.”

Attendees discussed the outlook for continued implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda and its strong relevance to countries in the region; leveraging international institutions to advance health security efforts in South Asia; the importance of health system workforce development; and the use of scientific and biosafety engagement initiatives to train the next generation of public health officials. The meeting was sponsored by the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC; sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DTRA) of the US Air Force Institute for National Security Studies.

PASCC also sponsors ongoing biosecurity dialogues the Center facilitates between India and the United States and among countries in Southeast Asia. These “Track II” dialogues are an opportunity for respected, experienced stakeholders inside and outside of government to collectively identify important issues that merit official policy engagement between and among governments. With this foundation, participants are prepared to engage senior leadership in their home countries in an influential way.

The Center’s project team was led by Senior Scholar Gigi Gronvall, PhD, and included Brittany Bland, MPH, a student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Center Director Tom Inglesby, MD; and Deputy Director Anita Cicero, JD.

About the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security:
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to protect people from epidemics and disasters and build resilient communities through innovative scholarship, engagement, and research that strengthens the organizations, systems, policies, and programs essential to preventing and responding to public health crises. The Center is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is located in Baltimore, MD.



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