Every country needs to be able to find, stop and prevent epidemics. But many are not adequately prepared—as demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, recent Ebola outbreaks and other emerging diseases. In particular, COVID-19 revealed preparedness gaps on a global scale—and the terrible danger that comes with leaving these gaps unchecked.
Three years before COVID-19 arrived, Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) had already sought to strengthen epidemic preparedness and prevention. Following the West Africa Ebola epidemic and the imminent threat of a major infectious disease, we partnered with countries to strengthen their ability to find, stop and prevent disease threats. Although much of the world was not ready for COVID-19, many of the countries we partnered with before the pandemic were actually better prepared for COVID-19. Even more governments and advocates turned to us for guidance during the pandemic.
Our Prevent Epidemics team accompanies governments in low-and middle-income countries in their efforts to step up their preparedness, and advises global policy to make improvements in how countries identify and respond to epidemics. In March 2020, we pivoted to support COVID-19 response efforts, which included establishing the U.S. COVID-19 Response Program.
For more information about our approach to preparedness, including technical guidance and advocacy toolkits, visit PreventEpidemics.org.
Strong preparedness and decisive response, supported by good governance, can prevent epidemics.
HOW RTSL SUPPORTS PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
Technical Expertise, Operational Excellence and Political Will
RTSL helps countries scale up their technical expertise, develop operational excellence and build political will for appropriate public health action at local, national and global levels. We provide technical assistance to at-risk countries directly or through partners, mobilize resources to support preparedness and drive political support for addressing gaps. By working across this spectrum, our team accelerates efforts to make the world safer from the next epidemic.
Our technical expertise guides project planning and implementation, with a focus on disseminating best practices among countries and supporting local learning. For example, we conducted an on-the-ground training on COVID-19 infection prevention and control for more than 40,000 health care workers in 8,000 facilities throughout Africa, which helped ensure the safe screening of more than five million patients.
Health security systems are complex, requiring coordination, collaboration and communication from staff across different technical areas and government ministries, which often presents significant operational challenges. We work with embedded staff and country management teams to ensure the effective governance, program management and implementation of health security priorities.
For example, our Program Management for Epidemic Preparedness (PMEP) supports public health officials in their day-to-day administration of preparedness activities.
A country needs adequate and steady financial and political support to be prepared for the next outbreak. We work with grassroots organizations, media and governments to build political will for epidemic preparedness and response. Our team has appeared in a range of media advocating for greater health care worker safety, increased funding for epidemic preparedness and improvements to the U.S. COVID-19 response, among other topics.
Our team’s advocacy efforts have included:
Advising countries on how to increase sustained, predictable base funding for public health security defense programs that prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks
“Stepping Up” Epidemic Preparedness
RTSL assists countries in their efforts to strengthen health systems, using the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) to identify gaps in preparedness and then work with countries to prioritize fixing them. The JEE is a transparent, collaborative and voluntary assessment of a country’s ability to find, stop and prevent public health threats, including infectious diseases. Similar to a report card, the JEE assesses 19 areas of preparedness and response that are scored, first by a group of domestic experts and then by an external group of international experts. It is a component of the Monitoring and Evaluation framework of the International Health Regulations (IHR), a binding agreement signed in 2005 by 194 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States. A country completes a JEE every four to five years.
The 19 areas scored by the JEE are divided across preparedness and response. RTSL focuses on advancing seven of these key preparedness areas for health system strengthening.
Risk Assessment & Planning
Emergency Response Operations
National Laboratory System
National Legislation Policy & Financing
Building on lessons learned from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, RTSL is calling for a global goal of 7-1-7 — that all public health threats:
- Be detected within 7 days of emergence
- Following detection, public health authorities are notified to start an investigation within 1 day
- Following notification, an initial response is completed within 7 days
A successful response requires all elements of the global health security system— from laboratories and surveillance, to universal health coverage and leadership—to work together to detect and address disease threats. One way to assess how well national systems work is by measuring a country’s response through timeliness: a start-to-end assessment of the speed with which a country detects, notifies public health authorities about and responds to infectious disease threats. As a measure of time, 7-1-7 rolls up all elements of early detection of and response to public health threats into a measurable goal to prevent epidemics. Learn more about this exciting global goal.