Karine Dubé, DrPH, is a research assistant professor in the UNC Gillings School for Global Public Health. She shares highlights from the annual meeting of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH).
The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) is an organization of 145 academic institutions involved in global health that facilitates the sharing of best practices to address complex global health challenges. The 2017 CUGH meeting took place in Washington, D.C., from April 6 – 9. Three infectious diseases highlights include: 1) strengthening the global health security agenda, 2) examining potential infectious diseases pandemics and 3) uncovering fake medicines throughout the world.
Strengthening the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA)
The GHSA is a partnership of nations and organizations to build capacity around infectious diseases. GHSA action packages include strategies for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and interventions to infectious diseases. Package topics range from antimicrobial resistance to zoonotic diseases and biosafety/biosecurity. Close to 50 countries have joined the GHSA since it was launched in 2014.
Examining Potential Infectious Diseases Pandemics
Emerging infectious diseases were a focus of the 2017 CUGH conference. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared his lessons advising the five past U.S. presidents on emerging infectious diseases emergencies. Examples of recent emerging infections include, under each U.S. administration:
- Reagan – 1981-1989 (HIV/AIDS emergency),
- George H. Bush – 1989-1993 (HIV/AIDS treatment),
- Clinton – 1993-2001 (West Nile Virus),
- George W. Bush – 2001-2009 (anthrax, H5N1, SARS) and
- Obama – 2009-2016 (Ebola, Zika).
Fauci explained that emerging infections will continue to remain a perpetual challenge. To proactively identify emerging infectious diseases threats, the Global Virome Project was created to map out unknown viruses throughout the world that are likely to infect humans. Scientists estimate that less than one percent of global viral threats have been identified. The Global Virome Project would identify potential threats before outbreaks occur and build systems to more efficiently respond to them.
Uncovering Fake Medicines throughout the World
Fake medicines remain an unseen threat to global health and affect all types of therapeutics throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 10-30 percent of medicines in the world are of poor quality. Fake therapeutics can cause prolonged illness, disability and death due to treatment failure and increased antimicrobial resistance. They also hurt the pharmaceutical and medical professions. The greatest burden falls on the poor in Africa and Asia with curable illnesses, such as malaria. One of the main factors that has given rise to fake medicines includes the proliferation of online pharmacies (96 percent of which are illegitimate). Tackling the problem of fake medicines requires a holistic approach, including ensuring proper regulations and legislations as well as law enforcement solutions and point-of-sale verification options are in place. Jim Herrington, executive director of the Gillings Global Gateway, chaired the CUGH session on fake medicines.
Additional Megatrends in Global Health
Additional megatrends in global health were highlighted during the 2017 CUGH meeting. These include the double burden of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases in developing countries, the role of global climate change, the aging global population and the importance of harnessing innovation and technology to address global health challenges.
One of the key topics of the conference was the future role of the United States in global health. The National Academies of Sciences will soon release a new report on global health.
Talking points for CUGH’s global health advocacy efforts are available here.