“If we pull away from the GHSA in this way, other countries that provide funding and technical assistance will also likely do the same,” noted Tom Inglesby, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, at a Senate committee hearing on America’s preparedness for 21st-century public-health threats.
All of this is but a symptom of a greater malady: our inability to learn from the past. Time and again, diseases flare up, governments throw money at the problem, the crisis recedes, and funding dries up. It happened after anthrax attacks in 2001 alerted people to the risk of bioterrorism. It happened in 2003, after SARS showed people how quickly a new disease could spread around the globe. The world is caught in a cycle of panic and neglect.
“Every time there is an epidemic, the question that always follows is: Why were we so unprepared?” says Nahid Bhadelia, from Boston University. Ironically, the lack of funding is “undercutting the very same programs created in response to the lessons learned after the Ebola epidemic-programs that catch and halt infectious diseases threats early so we can keep U.S. communities and borders safe. We can’t get rid of programs that literally work toward global-health security and expect that the results of the next epidemic will be any different than the last.”