National Security expert encourages countries make fighting pandemics high priority

Elizabeth Cameron, a biological threats expert for the White House's National Security Council, said on April 9 that global health security must become a high priority to fight pandemics such as avian flu.

"The challenge we face as a global community is how to leverage resources and funding across disparate streams and interests to move toward similar goals and targets... so we can better detect and respond [to disease threats]," Cameron said.

Cameron said public health threats such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and influenza strains have local and national governments struggling to develop a response. She said world leaders need to come together on one agenda to be successful against pandemics.

A panel of experts discussed avian flu in regard to science, history, biostatistics, security and social science following the speech. Panel participants included Georgetown College History Professor Carol Benedict, School of Nursing and Health Studies Associate Professor of International Health Jennifer Huang Bouey and NHS Professor of Health Systems Administration Michael Stoto.

"To learn lessons that are enduring, we have to get beyond asking how quickly cases were detected or how many vaccines were delivered, getting at a deeper level to understand the root causes, the 'how' and 'why' that public health emergency occurred and the system performed as it did," Stoto said.

Cameron was the keynote speaker at Georgetown University's "New Avian Influenzas in East Asia: Global Health Security and Policy" conference, co-hosted by Georgetown University Medical Center and the School of Foreign Service Asian Studies Program.