The threats posed by infectious disease outbreaks of Ebola and Zika epidemics are demonstrating the need for collaborative programs and solutions that match the GSN four-part model:
- global issue
- digitally connected
- diverse stakeholders
Head of the Gates Foundation, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellman, released the 2016 CEO letter from the organization that detailed the issues that are topping the list of initiatives. In the introduction to her missive, she makes a strong case for the effectiveness of the GSN model “Pandemics like the Zika virus, for example, demand that we work quickly with partners in the face of urgency… everything we do depends on partnership—and we all need to play to our strengths.”
The Gates initiative detailed in the Desmond-Hellman letter includes collaboration with German biopharmaceutical company CureVac. Gates has funded construction of a manufacturing facility that will focus on development of vaccines for several infectious diseases.
However, without an available cure or vaccine for the emerging Zika threat, Margaret Chan, director-general of World Health Organization (WHO), said at the 69th World Health Assembly:
Let me give you a stern warning. What we are seeing now looks more and more like a dramatic resurgence of the threat from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, The world is not prepared to cope.
The former US Ebola czar wrote in a commentary in the Washington Post:
It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly — it is a question of when and how many. For years to come, these children will be a visible, human reminder of the cost of absurd wrangling in Washington, of preventable suffering, of a failure of our political system to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose.
As the world is threatened by new infectious diseases with increasing frequency (including MERS, H1N1, Ebola, and now Zika), the need for new methods for developing solutions and the urgency for improved communication and collaboration is evident.