TACOMA, Washington — On March 26, 2021, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Global Health Security Act of 2021 (H.R.391) presented by Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA). This bill follows the previous version of the bill (H.R.2166), which was brought to the House in September of 2020. The passing of the Global Health Security Act shows U.S.’s continued commitment to leading global health advancements and disease prevention.
What is the Global Health Security Act?
The bill began with the first version (H.R.2166) of the Global Health Security Act in April 2019, in an effort to advance the work of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The GHSA began in 2014 in response to the global threat of infectious disease in an interconnected world. The mission of the GHSA emphasizes how global health is a “shared responsibility” and requires commitment and collaboration for successful initiatives. The GHSA continues to work diligently today to fight global diseases such as Ebola and COVID-19.
Representatives Connolly and Chabot presented this bill supporting GHSA’s expansion to Congress before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world because the Agenda’s work in addressing global health is vital for a progressive global economy and healthcare system.
In his press release about the passing of this bill in committee, Chabot stated, “The Global Health Security Act ensures that the U.S. Government, and the world, are ready for new diseases like the coronavirus, before they become pandemics.” The integration of this Act into policy supports the work of the GHSA and provides support for curbing infectious diseases in the future.
The Global Health Security Agenda Integracy Review Council
With the passage of this bill, a Global Health Security Agenda Integracy Review Council would be established through selection by the President and tasked with the oversight of agencies related to the initiatives of GHSA.
The responsibilities of the council would also include:
- Providing policy recommendations on agenda-related goals, objectives and implementation.
- Helping federal agencies with the implementation of said goals.
- Reviewing the progress and challenges in achieving U.S. commitments.
- Assisting other countries to meet agenda targets.
- Designating an official to oversee the GHSA council for any multilateral response necessary to combat threats to global health.
The Agenda’s activities are currently determined by executive orders. Placing an official permanently in place to oversee and coordinate interagency work would create a more streamlined approach to tackle future global health issues. This designated official will work directly with the GHSA and communicate with other nations involved in the Agenda alliance.
Ideally, this council will grow and develop as needs arise domestically and internationally. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released how 25 heads of government united around an international pandemic response treaty. Paired with the GHSA, this unity will create effective global health architecture for future response. WHO states how this treaty offers a means of peaceful response in times of crisis and instability. Both of these global health developments prepare nations for an effective universal response and the passing of the Global Health Security Act would display the U.S. commitment to lead global health action.
Hopes for this Bill
The Global Health Security Act of 2021 would renew the global partnership between the U.S. and 30 other nations, launching similar health security plans. Ideally, the passage of this bill would also further support the expanding reach of the GHSA and its work in the world to combat any future infectious disease threats.
Global crises often catch the world off guard and unprepared to handle threats to national security. Thus, the establishment of this council as a permanent safeguard elevates the effectiveness of a global response.
Many of GHSA’s objectives expanded based on the knowledge gained from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made the need for global health security increasingly vital. With a desire to prevent future pandemics, the GHSA hopes new policies will launch the world into a safer future. Additionally, the globalization of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical nature of a global health response, which has strengthened the need for an advanced GHSA.
The Borgen Project and GHSA
The Borgen Project, one of the GHSA’s endorsers, is thrilled by the bill passing committee and what it means for the global fight against poverty. The GHSA provides security and safety from global health threats.
Along with The Borgen Project, this bill is endorsed by the ChildFund International, Global Citizen, Global Health Council, International Medical Corps, IntraHealth International, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Nuclear Threat Initiative, PATH, the American Society of the Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the ONE Campaign, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the American Society for Microbiology.
– Kate Lucht