Preparing for the Next Public Health Emergency

BIOtech Now
Andrew Segerman

The weather report shows a 50 percent chance of rain tomorrow. Should you pack an umbrella just in case? We’ll let you decide, but the what if factor should be enough to get your maybe to a yes.

Last week, former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn) and former Governor Tom Ridge (R-PA) authored a powerful opinion in The Hill on the importance of budgeting for the next public health emergency that “could kill more people than nuclear war.” While this scenario is a bit more dramatic than tomorrow’s weather report, the principle is the same: what if we’re unprepared for the next Ebola crisis or SARS outbreak and the result is the loss of a significant amount of lives and a global price tag in the trillions?

As Lieberman and Ridge point out, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense — which includes BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood — has made a number of recommendations to protect the American people and better defend the nation against biological threats. In fact, the White House has agreed to produce a National Biodefense Strategy which is a promising start, but not enough.

In their latest report “Budget Reform for Biodefense: Integrated Budget Needed to Increase Return on Investment,” the group suggests the following:

“[T]he president [should] release the National Biodefense Strategy … and ensure that his next budget request to Congress conforms to the priorities in this strategy, showing how money requested for biodefense programs support the National Strategy’s goals and objectives.

“The White House should … establish a new, government-wide, Biodefense Coordination Council composed of senior officials from responsible departments, independent agencies, and independent institutions, as well as private sector and state, local, tribal, and territorial representatives. This Council could help identify redundancies and gaps in our biodefense before they wind up costing lives and wasting dollars.

“Congress should create its own bipartisan biodefense working group to consider new legislation that would strengthen our national biodefense and hold the Executive Branch accountable for using federal funding to execute the National Biodefense Strategy responsibly.”

For more, read the full op-ed here.

Full BIOtech Now Article here

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