U.S. Department of Defense Continued Support to the Global Health Security Agenda: Updates from Korea

by Dr. J. Christopher Daniel, Senior Advisor for Global Health Engagement, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs
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In late July, the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Steering Group, chaired by the Republic of Korea, convened in Seoul to discuss ongoing implementation of the GHSA. A partnership of 61 nations, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders, GHSA facilitates collaborative, capacity-building efforts to advance a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. The U.S. government is a proud partner in this effort, investing more than $1 billion in a whole-of-government approach to strengthen global health security across 31 countries and the Caribbean Community.

In support of the U.S. delegation, I led a Department of Defense (DoD) contingent with representatives from the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Forces Korea, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Defense Health Agency. Meeting participants developed approaches to scale up Joint External Evaluations – voluntary processes that assess participating countries’ capacities to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to public health threats whether occurring naturally or due to deliberate or accidental events. Participants also discussed sustainable means to address critical health security gaps revealed during the evaluation process.

Just a few months ago at the 70th World Health Assembly, Health and Human Services Secretary Price reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to a cooperative, transparent, and effective international response to infectious disease outbreaks, including our continued support to the Global Health Security Agenda. The rationale is clear: a disease threat anywhere is a disease threat everywhere, as an infectious disease outbreak – even in the most remote places of the world – transcends boundaries and can spread rapidly to adversely impact the health, security, and prosperity of citizens around the world.

DoD plays a unique role in support of GHSA, recognizing that global health threats impact economic growth, stability, and ultimately the development potential of nations – a complex interplay influencing the overall security of countries and regions, including key U.S. partners and allies. Working closely with U.S. interagency colleagues, DoD supports the implementation of GHSA Action Packages through Global Health Engagement activities in force health protection, threat reduction, and biodefense programs, including biosurveillance and medical research. DoD programs, Services, and Combatant Commands also actively participate in GHSA country roadmap development, and support the U.S. interagency and Partner Nations in joint planning to enhance health security capacity.

Looking ahead, the Department of Defense will continue to provide unique support as part of the U.S. government’s commitment to advance GHSA objectives in line with national security objectives. Through these important efforts, we can collectively combat global health threats and enhance security for both our Partner Nations and the U.S. homeland.

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