Citizens fear world not prepared for health emergency

23 Jul 15

Citizens in developed nations believe the world is not ready for another global epidemic like last year’s Ebola outbreak and have called for investment to reduce the threat posed by infectious disease.

A World Bank survey of 4,000 people living in five wealthy countries – France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US – found that twice as many respondents think the world will experience another global epidemic in the next decade as ill not. Fewer than half said they were confident their own country is prepared.

There was widespread support for investment in disease prevention in developing countries, not least because of the beneficial effects on wealthier nations. Nearly 80% of respondents said investing in doctors, nurses and clinics in developing countries would help prevent epidemics breaking out in their own countries, while 70% believed investing in healthcare in the developing world will save the wider world money.

Commenting on the findings, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said: “This survey shows that the public sees global infectious disease outbreaks as a serious threat, and they want leaders to take action to prepare for the next potentially deadly epidemic.

“This heightened concern also translates into strong support for investments to strengthen health systems in vulnerable countries, as any country with a weak health system puts both its own citizens and the entire world at risk.”

The polling also revealed that people in developed nations followed news of last year’s Ebola extensively and interest remained high. They rank “global health and epidemics” as one of their top global concerns and “global infectious diseases” as the global health issue that concerns them most.

“It is heartening to see from this survey that people now understand the risks global infectious diseases pose to people and the pivotal role that strong, resilient health systems play in global health security,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general for health security at the World Health Organization.

“WHO together with the World Bank Group and other partners is accelerating work to build such resilience, enabling countries to identify and stop disease outbreaks and thus reduce national and global health threats.”

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