Jun 05, 2017 - 9:45am

The Importance of Protecting Businesses from Global Health Threats


Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In our modern global economy, interconnected businesses are constantly vulnerable to health emergencies and natural disasters, which can devastate economies. For example, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa resulted in more than 11,000 deaths and in 2015 an estimated $2.2 billion in GDP losses for the region. A wider spread of this deadly disease in the U.S.—or to a major trading partner—could have devastated our economy as well. The world faced a similar impact with SARS in 2003, costing international economies $40 billion in just six months.

Today, 70% of the world’s countries remain unprepared to prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats, making these countries potentially less attractive to global investment. Their inability to stop outbreaks puts every country at risk, and this capability gap represents a continuing challenge for public health and for American businesses dependent on an interconnected economy.

CDC is working hard to address this major challenge in three ways:

1. By Containing Outbreaks at the Source 

The most effective and least expensive way to protect America’s workforce from health threats is to stop them before they begin. CDC’s 24/7 Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Global Disease Detection Operations Center monitor and respond to global and domestic public health emergencies. Strong emergency management programs enable fast, effective responses overseas and protect businesses here.

CDC brings extensive experience to assist countries with public health emergency management, disease tracking and reporting systems, workforce training, infection control, and laboratory systems targeting dangerous microbes. We have expanded our renowned Epidemic Intelligence Service training to more than 70 other countries, training more than 9,500 disease detectives locally through our Field Epidemiology Training Program.  

CDC trains and consults with emergency program staff in other countries on best practices, improving a country’s ability to respond to a public health emergency. In Cameroon, staff members returned from CDC emergency management training in 2016 and activated their new public health EOC to respond to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza within 24 hours of its detection, compared with eight weeks for a cholera outbreak in 2015. 

2. By Strengthening Health Security Through Partnerships

CDC’s ability to keep Americans healthy and safe depends on private sector allies. Our work in health security helps protect businesses from economic losses associated with pandemics, including disrupted global markets that put U.S. jobs supporting exports in jeopardy. Our Strategic National Stockpile program partners with the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) to integrate response efforts and develop a more reliable commercial supply chain. CDC works with partners to share information about the national medical supply chain, making informed decisions about where products are needed most and limiting widespread shortages.  During the Zika response, CDC linked Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Walgreens with local health departments to collaborate on community events—Zika Action Days—in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. Community members attending events received prevention information and kits containing bed nets, mosquito repellent, and other prevention products.

3. By Building Private Sector Resilience

Business owners need to connect with health departments, emergency management agencies, and CDC staff in countries where they operate to ensure preparedness in a health emergency or natural disaster.

Stay up-to-date by following CDC on Facebook CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Twitter @CDCemergency. CDC welcomes new partners and we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can achieve our common goals. On June 7, the U.S. Chamber’s National Security Task Force will host RADM Stephen Redd and Dr. Hamid Jafari to discuss CDC’s biosecurity efforts.

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About the Author

About the Author

Stephen C. Redd, MD, RADM
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

RADM Stephen C. Redd, MD, is Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In his current role, Dr. Redd leads CDC's public health preparedness and response activities. His center is responsible for state and local readiness, the regulation of select agents and toxins, emergency operations, and managing the nation’s stockpile of emergency medical countermeasures.

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