AFRICA – Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative, has released a new “Epidemics that Didn’t Happen” report that shows that investment in preparedness, combined with swift, strategic responses by public health authorities, can stop disease outbreaks in Africa and beyond.

According to the report, COVID-19 and recent outbreaks of monkeypox and polio have highlighted how vulnerable the world is to infectious diseases as well as how public health workers stop epidemics before they start.

The report highlights that responses don’t have to be perfect to be effective, but sustained investment in preparedness can mean the difference between an outbreak that’s contained and one that devastates a community, a country, or the world.

The case studies were developed with support from health ministries and global health organizations including, Indonesian Red Cross Society, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Vital Strategies and FAME Hospital,” the global health organization noted.

The real-life examples presented in the latest report highlight different aspects of effective public health programs, including how improved systems and skills following deadly epidemics contained Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Learning from experience advanced planning, regional awareness and rapid action stopped cholera in Burkina Faso and a diverse team mobilized and successfully contained a rabies outbreak in Tanzania,” the Resolve To Save Lives said.

The organization further said that well-coordinated health offices in Brazil swiftly contained a flu outbreak on a cruise ship while community trust enabled early detection of and response to a dengue case in Indonesia.

Just last month, Ghana contained its first outbreak of Marburg virus which is highly contagious and has a fatality rate as high as 88%. This story, like many other prevented epidemics, didn’t make the headlines,” the Resolve to Save Lives outlined.

The global health initiative highlighted that investments in public health can stop disease outbreaks, saving lives and preventing suffering while noting that the latest report celebrates successful outbreak responses around the world and demonstrates the returns of investing in health systems.

When outbreaks aren’t contained, the results can be economically catastrophic as well as deadly: estimates place the global cost of COVID-19 as high as $20 trillion, with approximately 20 million lives lost,” the organization said.

Successes of front-line public health workers around the world prove that public health works when we invest in and prioritize strengthening health systems at all levels,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dr. Frieden emphasized that epidemic preparedness must not stop when an outbreak does, adding that successes of front-line public health workers around the world prove that public health works when we invest in and prioritize strengthening health systems

Outbreaks begin and end locally, so community action is crucial to preventing epidemics. Public health officials’ engagement with communities pays off because it builds trust in the health system,” said Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President of Resolve to Save Lives.

The Senior Vice President of Resolve to Save Lives further pointed out that another key component is protecting health care workers, who are the frontline of defense against outbreaks.

When primary health care centers are safe work environments, patients and health care workers are protected and are better able to detect and respond to health threats before they spiral out of control.” Amanda concluded.

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