Global Health Security


SARS in 2003. Influenza in 2009. Ebola in 2014. Zika in 2015. In the fight against infectious diseases, no nation can stand alone. In today’s interconnected world, a health threat anywhere is a threat everywhere: an outbreak in a remote village can spread to major cities on all six continents in less than 36 hours.

Protecting America’s health, safety, and national security involves making sure other countries have the knowledge and resources to stop outbreaks before they can spread across national boundaries.  The Division of Global Health Protection (DGHP) within CDC’s Center for Global Health leads the implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda. DGHP and partners help countries better prepare for outbreaks and accelerate progress towards a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.

Investment in global health security is our country’s best strategy for protecting our national wellbeing, both from infectious disease outbreaks and acts of bioterrorism. CDC works with global partners to strengthen the capacity of countries with weak health systems to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to emergencies.

  • A changing world brings new and increasing risks. Increasing global travel and urbanization mean there are more opportunities for diseases to emerge, spread, and strike in densely populated areas; and the disturbing but real threat of diseases used as instruments of terror requires us to have faster, more effective, and more adaptive response capabilities.
  • The cost of epidemics is high…and getting higher. From February-July 2003, SARS spread across four continents, infected 8,100 people, killed more than 700, and cost the global economy $40 billion. The 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic led to more than 11,000 deaths at a cost of about $2.2 billion. Epidemics can hurt the U.S. economy in multiple ways, including by placing American exports, jobs, and tourism in jeopardy.
  • No country can protect itself alone. In 2005, all 196 World Health Organization member states signed the International Health Regulations to improve the world’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to public health events. However, today nearly 70% of the world’s nations remain underprepared to manage and control complex health emergencies. These gaps leave all countries vulnerable.
  • CDC is America’s Global Health Protection Agency. CDC serves as a lead technical agency for implementing global health security, working to build countries’ capacities to quickly identify, respond to, and contain public health threats. Since 2006, CDC’s Global Disease Detection Centers around the world have established more than 380 new diagnostic tests in national or local laboratories, detected nearly 80 new strains and pathogens, responded to more than 2,000 requests for assistance with disease outbreaks, and trained more than 115,000 professionals at the national and regional level on key public health issues. To ensure sustained readiness for the next health emergency, CDC now trains and rosters a Global Rapid Response Team (GRRT) of over 400 experts who can deploy in as little as 48 hours. Between September 2015 and December 2016, CDC’s GRRT responders were mobilized over 280 times and contributed more than 10,000 cumulative person-days to emergency response. CDC initiatives in workforce development and disease detection and response have strengthened public health surveillance, laboratory, and emergency response capabilities in countries across the world.

A new special supplement of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) journal entitled Global Health Security focuses on CDC’s contributions and successes working with ministries of health, other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and other international partners to advance global health security and establish effective programs and initiatives around the world to protect us all from public health threats.

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