The Growing Economic Cost of a Global Disease Outbreak - an EcoHealth Alliance Analysis

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Strategies to Reduce Climate Change Are Adaptable to Curtail Emerging Pandemic Threats

“Our research shows that new approaches to reducing emerging pandemic threats at the source would be more cost effective than trying to mobilize a global response after a disease has emerged,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, senior author on the paper.

EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, announced the results of a study published today in the high profile journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). EcoHealth Alliance economists, disease ecologists and partners collaborated on an in-depth economic analysis of our global strategy to address pandemic threats in a proactive way rather than reactive response to a crisis. Each year, emerging pandemic disease outbreaks increasingly threaten global public health and world economies. As demonstrated in the current West African Ebola outbreak, the global response to emerging diseases is often too late to prevent major impacts on health and economic growth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of infected individuals with Ebola has surpassed 17,000 cases with more than 6,000 resulting deaths. The World Bank now estimates that the two-year financial cost of Ebola may reach $32.6 billion and force some already suffering West African economies into a deep recession.

“Our research shows that new approaches to reducing emerging pandemic threats at the source would be more cost effective than trying to mobilize a global response after a disease has emerged,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, senior author on the paper and President of EcoHealth Alliance. The paper demonstrates the use of economic modeling to analyze two strategies for pandemic response, current business-as-usual approaches that rely on global surveillance to identify new diseases in people; and new ‘mitigation’ strategies to reduce the underlying drivers of emerging diseases and lower the risk of them emerging in the first place. The results show that the current strategy for pandemics needs to be coordinated urgently on a global scale to be effective in reducing risk. Furthermore, mitigation strategies will be far more cost effective in the long-term. Since 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases involve animal-to-human transmission, the underlying factors that contribute to disease events are largely environmental changes to global ecosystems like deforestation and wildlife trade. Rapid changes to the natural environment are causing a continuous rise year-by-year in the number of new diseases emerging. “With continued pressure causing emerging diseases to rise, our analysis shows that we need to analyze the ecological and economic foundations of this risk and identify economically effective strategies to reduce it,” says Dr. David Finnoff, Associate Professor in Economics at University of Wyoming, and co-author of the study. “Our economic modeling shows us that the new approach to dealing with disease emergence at the source is the right strategy in the long-term,” adds Dr. Jamison Pike, Senior Economist at EcoHealth Alliance, and first author of the paper.

The paper highlights the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations (IHR) and points out that global capacity to achieve current IHR targets need to be built now to deal with the background of a continuous rise in the rate of new diseases. The paper identifies new mitigation strategies that have begun to deal with pandemics at the source, including the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats program PREDICT-2 project and the ‘One Health’ approach championed by FAO-OIE-WHO in collaboration with the World Bank. Dr. Daszak commented, “our paper illustrates that we can expect over five new emerging diseases each year into the future. Given this continuous rise in pandemic threats, and our increasing global connectivity, we are at a critical moment in history to act.” Daszak added, “programs like the ‘One Health’ approach of FAO-OIE-WHO, and USAID’s EPT program will be critical to our long-term survival in the face of pandemic threats.”

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About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building. Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives. For more information, please visit http://www.ecohealthalliance.org. Twitter: @EcoHealthNYC

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Anthony Ramos
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