HKU takes a Leading Role in Global Commissions on Countering Infectious Disease Threats; Policy Recommendations will be considered in the World Health Assembly
*adapted from the contents published by the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong at http://www.med.hku.hk/v1/archives/13889
Four global commissions formed to review the Ebola epidemic are proposing a bold new agenda for global health preparedness and response for future infectious disease threats. The team of international commissioners, including HKU’s Professor Gabriel M Leung, Chair Professor of Public Health Medicine, Co-Director of World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, and Dean of Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), has recently written a paper entitled “Toward a Common Secure Future: Four Global Commissions in the Wake of Ebola”. The paper, as a culmination of the recommendations of the four global commissions, was published in the prestigious journal PLoS Medicine (http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002042) on 19 May 2016.
Common Goals stressed by the Global Commissions
To make the world safer against future infectious disease threats, national health systems should be strengthened, the World Health Organization’s emergency and outbreak response activities should be consolidated and bolstered, and research and development should be enhanced, says the Policy Forum article published in PLoS Medicine. The article also emphasises that “system-wide accountability is vital to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to future global health emergencies”, and that “global health leaders – e.g. United Nations, World Health Assembly, G-7, and G-20 – should maintain continuous oversight of global health preparedness and ensure effective implementation of the commissions’ key recommendations, including sustainable and scalable financing.”
Policy Implications for Hong Kong and the Region
“From the SARS outbreak to the emergence of avian influenza subtypes such as H5N1, H5N6, H7N9 and H9N2, the ongoing MERS and Zika outbreaks, Hong Kong and China have often been at the epicenter of zoonotic and pandemic infectious disease emergence,” said Professor Gabriel M Leung, senior author of the paper. “Our team of virologists and epidemiologists at The University of Hong Kong has been at the forefront of research in emerging infectious diseases and we have shared our experience with the global commissions with a view to enhancing global health preparedness and response to future pandemics.” “We hope that the recommendations of the global commissions will be seriously considered at the upcoming World Health Assembly and G7 Summit, both of which will be held later this month in Geneva and Japan respectively, as well as the G20 Summit meeting to be held in Hangzhou this September,” said Professor Leung.
Background of the Four Global Commissions
The four international commissions that reflected on the Ebola Outbreak are: (1) Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future convened by the US National Academy of Medicine; (2) World Health Organization Ebola Interim Assessment Panel; (3) Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola; and (4) United Nations High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises. These commissions are established to critically evaluate the national and global response to Ebola and to enhance preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to future infectious disease threats. Other renowned commissioners who contributed to the paper include, inter alia, Victor Dzau, President of the US National Academy of Medicine; Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami and former Dean of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University; Peter Piot, Director of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; and Barbara Stocking, President of Murray Edwards College of the University of Cambridge.
About the US National Academy of Medicine’s Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future
Set up by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine in 2015 following the large-scale outbreaks of SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS-CoV and other emerging infectious diseases, the independent commission comprises 17 members from different countries and experts in finance, governance, R&D, health systems, and social sciences. In its report released in January 2016, the Commission estimated that the global expected economic loss from potential pandemics could average more than US$60 billion per year – yet the global community has significantly underestimated and underinvested in pandemic threats. The Commission recommended an annual incremental investment of US$4.5 billion – 65 cents per person – to strengthen global preparedness, the modest investment of which will provide a major security dividend. On March 13, 2016, the Asia Launch cum Seminar of the Report Recommendations of the Commission was held at The University of Hong Kong. More than 200 guests including policymakers, think-tank representatives, healthcare leaders and public health scholars from all over the Asia Pacific region had attended the seminar.
About the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control at the School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU
The School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong has been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control with effect from 10 December 2014. The designation of HKU School of Public Health (HKU SPH) as a WHO CC is the first of such kind at the University. HKU SPH has a long and distinguished history in public health education and high impact research. With world leading research in infectious diseases as well as on non-communicable diseases of both local and global importance, the School has made significant contributions through its research and advocacy to improve the health of populations and individuals, both locally and globally. The School is a leading research and teaching hub in public health on influenza and other emerging viruses, control of infectious and non-communicable diseases, tobacco control, air pollution, psycho-oncology, behavioral sciences, life-course epidemiology, and health economics, health services planning and management. This work has informed international (e.g. the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), national and local public health policies.
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Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU, points out that, to make the world safer against future infectious disease threats, national health systems should be strengthened, the World Health Organization’s emergency and outbreak response activities should be consolidated and bolstered, and research and development should be enhanced.