A new report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative has found that nations around the world remain “dangerously unprepared” to meet future epidemic and pandemic threats,
The report – the 2021 Global Health Security (GHS) Index — measured the capacities of 195 countries to prepare for epidemics and pandemics. It found that all 195 countries have insufficient sustained health capacities, which leaves the world vulnerable to future health emergencies. The average overall 2021 GHS Index score is 38.9 out of a possible score of 100. No country scored in the top tier of rankings, and no country scored higher than 75.9.
The index was developed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) along with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and Economist Impact.
“COVID-19 offers a devastating illustration of how poor pandemic preparedness and response can impact health and security at every level—local, national and global,” NTI Co-Chair and CEO Ernest Moniz said. “The stakes are high, and world leaders need to act. Biological risks are growing in frequency, and all countries need more investment in durable capabilities to address these risks.”
The GHS Index is designed to inform leaders of the foundational elements required to prepare for future outbreaks.
“Leaders now have a choice,” Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said. “They can make dedicated, sustainable investments in the new capacities created during the COVID-19 response to prepare their countries for the long term, or they can fall back into the decades-long cycle of panic-and-neglect that will leave the world at grave risk for inevitable future public health threats.”
The 2021 GHS Index — the first since the pandemic began — features a revised framework and updated data collection conducted between August 2020 and June 2021. Thus, it allowed researchers to gather facts about preparedness during the ongoing pandemic. It assessed countries across six categories, 37 indicators, and 171 questions using publicly available information.
“One of the core principles of the GHS Index is that global health security is a collective responsibility,” NTI Interim Vice President for Biological Policy and Programs Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg said. “The Index can help leaders, health officials, and practitioners identify gaps and build sustained preparedness in their home countries and those in their regions.”
Among the key findings, most countries have not made dedicated financial investments in strengthening epidemic or pandemic preparedness. Specifically, 155 out of 195 countries have not allocated national funds to improve capacity within the last three years.
Further, it revealed that 70% of countries show insufficient health capacity in clinics, hospitals, and community health centers.
In addition, 161 countries have low to moderate public confidence in their government, and only 33 countries have an overarching emergency preparedness and response plan that includes considerations for vulnerable populations. Also, 176 countries have not published a national public health emergency response plan for diseases with epidemic or pandemic potential.
The 2021 GHS Index also includes recommendations for countries, international organizations, the private sector, and philanthropies to improve capacities and increase preparedness.
The top recommendation for countries is to allocate health security funds in national budgets and develop a national plan to identify their risks and fill gaps, using the 2021 GHS Index as a reference. International organizations should use the index to identify countries most in need of additional support, while the private sector should look for opportunities to partner with governments. Finally, philanthropies and funders should develop new financing mechanisms and use the Index to prioritize resources.
“It can be difficult for countries to know how best to use their very limited resources to meaningfully protect themselves against future pandemics,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Deputy Director Anita Cicero said. “The Global Health Security Index can be used as a guidepost to identify and address yawning preparedness gaps with the ultimate goal of reducing health and economic impacts when the next public health crisis comes along.”
The report was developed in consultation with an international panel of 18 experts from 13 countries.