Why the Global Health Security Act Is So Important

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SEATTLE, Washington — Congressman Gerry Connolly introduced the Global Health Security Act to Congress on April 9, 2019 with Congressman Steve Chabot. The Global Health Security Act has become even more essential in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that the United States invest in global health in order to tackle COVID-19 around the world and at home. However, even without COVID-19, global health should still be a priority. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “infectious diseases pose a ​substantial direct and indirect threat to U.S. interests​.” Putting resources toward improving global health bolsters national security as well as aids communities around the world.

Specifically, the Global Health Security Act aims to prevent infectious disease outbreaks and increase preparedness for future pandemics and epidemics. It would also encourage more sustainable healthcare systems and create a Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Interagency Review Council​ to provide policy recommendations. The Borgen Project contacted Rep. Steve Chabot, one of the leaders responsible for introducing the bill to Congress, to gain insight into why it is so important today.

Congressman Steve Chabot

Rep. Chabot (R-OH-01) has been an Ohio congressman since 1994. During this time, he has served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on the Judiciary. He has also served as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Rep. Chabot exclusively told The Borgen Project several important factors about the bill.

  1. What does the Global Health Security Act seek to address? The bill seeks to strengthen the U.S. and global ability to prevent, detect and respond to future pandemics.
  2. In what specific ways does the bill help to combat the spread of infectious diseases? The legislation has two goals. First, it seeks to solidify U.S. commitments to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). GHSA is a multilateral initiative to strengthen health systems around the world. Second, it aims to strengthen existing bureaucracy [in the U.S.]to ensure that the numerous agencies that are involved in responding to a global health crisis are all working together.
  3. How does the bill help the most at-risk populations globally? By supporting the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), the legislation aims to strengthen hospitals and labs in countries around the world that most need assistance.
  4. How will the passage of the Global Health Security Act help us here in the U.S.? As the coronavirus pandemic shows, diseases don’t know borders. By helping other countries strengthen their hospitals and labs, we [the U.S.]can identify and contain emerging diseases before they get to the United States. The bill would also help the federal government prepare for the next pandemic by strengthening the global health chain of command.

Congressman Gerry Connolly

Rep. Connolly (D-VA-11) has been a Virginia congressman since 2009 and is the other sponsor of the Global Health Security Act. As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he has long been focused on reforming foreign assistance policies. Rep. Connolly has been a vocal supporter of the bill, reaffirming its importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated, “As we’ve seen time and time again, diseases do not respect borders, and global health crises have immense security, economic and humanitarian consequences.” Rep. Connolly believes the Global Health Security Act is significant because it “recognizes the critical role of U.S. leadership in international health security, enshrines U.S. global health security policy in statute and ensures that there is a permanent designated official responsible for coordinating these efforts in a strategic way.”

The COVID-19 pandemic reaffirms the importance of investing in global health to increase national security. The Borgen Project and other organizations continue to build support for the Global Health Security Act in the hopes of increasing preparedness for infectious diseases and saving countless lives around the world.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

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