GMU Biodefense Student Ambassador GHSA Reflection – Annette Prieto

Annette Prieto, M.S. Biodefense Candidate Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University Vice President, Next Generation Global Health Security Network Mason Chapter – USA

Although the theme for the 5th Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting was “Advancing Global Partnerships,” session 3 was the first session that offered insight into the many ways global partnerships can and should be approached for the GHSA 2024. The panel was composed of diverse leaders from different sectors and countries, highlighting the importance of using a multi-sectoral method to achieve the overarching targets of GHSA 2024.

The panel discussed a wide range of topics. The first panelist, Dr. Nick Adkin, Deputy Director of Global Health Security, Department of Health and Social Care, United Kingdom, started the session with a specific but enormous problem to global health security: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR affects not only public health, but also trade and food safety. As Dr. Adkin stressed, AMR is currently undermining progress already made in the public health field and has the potential to make everyday procedures—like hip replacements and chemotherapy—too risky to perform. Therefore, there is a great need for the global community to work together to fight against AMR. Although it would have been nice to hear how AMR is currently being explicitly battled, it was encouraging to see that many countries had action plans on fighting AMR and that environmental aspects are now being incorporated in the Action Package.

The second panelist was Dr. Fadjar Sumping Tjatur Rasa, Director of Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Republic of Indonesia. Dr. Tjatur reviewed the Zoonotic Disease Action Package (ZDAP), the gaps and challenges faced in key action areas, and proposed international collaboration activates. Since many of the gaps and challenges in key ZDAP action areas focused on different types of partnerships, it was reassuring that the Action Package had made plans to improve and increase international collaboration efforts. I found it exciting that the mentioned collaboration efforts not only included high- and mid-level professionals, but also students, therefore, taking steps to include and train the next generation.

Next was Dr. Mark van Passel, Project Coordinator, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the Netherlands, who discussed the Biosafety and Biosecurity Action Package. Among the topics mentioned, the main takeaways were the importance of a multi-sectoral approach, financing, and inclusion of the next generation. During his talk, Dr. van Passel reflected on the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and Next Generation Global Health Security Network (NextGen) Biosafety competition and stressed the importance of the next generation not only in the Action Package but also the broader community. He also emphasized the Action Packages, like AMR, One Health, ZDAP, and Biosafety and Biosecurity, should be linked. I believe this offered a different but obvious insight I had not considered before: not only should partnerships be improved within Action Packages, but also across Action Packages.

The fourth panelist was Dr. Hyungul Jung, Deputy Scientific Director of Division of Vaccine Preventable Disease Control and National Immunization Program, Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Republic of Korea. Dr. Jung gave an overview of the National Immunization Program in South Korea. He reported that the program was very successful and has been able to eradicate Polio, Measles, and Rubella. Dr. Jung attributed the success to universal coverage and increased accessibility on immunization. Although he gave many good programs to improve immunizations, I believe the best mentioned was the immunization awareness campaigns and promotions. Not only are there educational books for parents in different languages and strategic immunization promotions, but there is also a whole week in April that is dedicated to immunization. One of the ways to best fight against the anti-vaccination movement is going to be education. Educating all levels of society, not only adults but also children, helps protect against misinformation and confusion. I would be interesting to see if schools here in United States could adopt something similar.

Nappavan Janejai, Deputy Director of National Institute of Health, Department of Medical Science, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, was the fifth panelist. Janejai discussed the National Laboratory System Action Package. She mentioned the challenges faced, most being related to communication. Once again, the importance of collaboration between Action Packages was declared. Therefore, it is critical to remember not only do partnerships need to be formed, but they need to allow for reliable communication between members.

The next panelist was Dr. Jamechia Hoyle, Coordinator of Next Generation Global Health Security Network (NextGen). Dr. Hoyle gave an inspiring speech about investing in the next generation. She showed how there are no barriers when you are genuinely committed by highlighting the success of the NTI and NextGen competition and also a mentorship program run by NextGen. Lastly, Dr. Hoyle mentioned the importance of investing in the next generation by investing in workforce development. Educating, training, and incorporating students and early-career professionals into the global health field is critical. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Hoyle’s speech. As a graduate student, it felt like she was speaking on my behalf and on behalf of all my classmates that want to enter the global health field but keep finding many obstacles in our way. What was more encouraging was the number of people who went up to her afterward to agree with her speech. However, there were some who agreed with the speech and yet still found excuses for not investing in workforce development. Therefore, there is still a long way and a lot of work to go before the obstacles in front of the next generation are completely destroyed.

The last panelist was Dr. Alan Tennenberg, Co-chair of the Private Sector Round Table (PSRT). Dr. Tennenberg highlighted the accomplishments of the PSRT to date and the expanded role of the Private Sector under GHSA 2024. Not only does this include continued engagement of the Private Sector, but also open communication. With the theme of the Ministerial Meeting being “Advancing Global Partnerships,” it is essential to promote a multi-sectoral approach to global health security. I believe that giving the PSRT a chance to be involved in global health security helps strengthen capabilities and capacities and that their further involvement increases the chances of reaching the targets of GHSA 2024.

I am very proud to have been a part of the 5th Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting. Not only have I learned more about global health security, but I have also built relationships and friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. The meeting made me realized that is still a lot of work to do, but I am confident that progress can be made.

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