President and CEO, Global Health Council
Alarm bells have finally caught the attention of reporters, politicians and the public about an issue that has been a continuing concern in public health circles since the 1990s. It's about time.
We know that a reprise of the devastating global flu pandemic that occurred at the end of World War I is only a matter of WHEN, not IF. We know that all the conditions are right for the next pandemic to circle the globe via commercial jet in days — far faster than the weeks or months needed in the time of ocean liners. We know that the "dry kindling" of highly susceptible populations living crowded together in the developing world's mega-cities provides the likelihood of an explosive ignition to any such epidemic that would quickly rage out of control. And we know that the world is simply not ready yet to address the challenges that this kind of global outbreak is likely to pose to health, to economies, and even to international security.
The good news is that we may still have time to prepare the world for the next flu pandemic. Hopefully, we will be in the position of engineers proposing to strengthen New Orleans' dikes years before the hurricanes hit, and we will be listened to. Otherwise, when the next severe influenza begins to spread, we will have little more to offer than did engineers as Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast: by that time, all they could propose was to head to high ground.
Dr. Nils Daulaire is president and CEO of the Global Health Council, the world's largest membership alliance of public health professionals and organizations dedicated to raising the attention, resources, and knowledge needed to improve health worldwide. He served in the 1990s as USAID's Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy and was the U.S. government's Senior International Health Policy Advisor. Previously he worked on developing and managing maternal and child health services in developing countries, and on field research to identify and validate effective and high-impact health interventions to reduce child deaths. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Master's in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine.