The Tyee has published my article After Ebola, WHO Launches New Outbreak Workforce. Excerpt:
Clearly, WHO's present model -- underfunded, over-politicized -- is due for reform. What Angela Merkel called for, and Margaret Chan promised, has been discussed for months: a unified program for health emergencies, a set of performance metrics especially for the first 72 hours of an outbreak, a "global health emergency workforce," a new business model for that workforce, and a $100 million contingency fund to pay for its launch.
Significantly, Chan said her new rapid response teams would include "logisticians, medical anthropologists, and experts in risk communication." Getting the right people and equipment where needed, and explaining why they were there to the locals, have been two major failures in West Africa. Ebola centers were built that never saw a patient; riots and murders resulted from imposing a Western healthcare model on people culturally unprepared a threat like this.
While the emergency workforce would report to Chan and her successors, it would operate with a freedom from political constraint that's clearly modeled on MSF. WHO puts up with an absurd amount of nonsense from member states like Saudi Arabia, which has dragged its heels on stopping Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The new emergency workforce, financially "ring-fenced" against retaliation, would be free to embarrass the House of Saud into behaving more professionally.
The new "good cop, bad cop" approach is an awkward one, but it reflects a sad reality: Most if not all countries are run by people who care more their own political wellbeing than for their people's welfare. That makes governments themselves a hazard to public health. But they fear embarrassment more than any emerging disease. If WHO's new rapid response teams can apply some therapeutic pressure on such rulers, that alone should smother many outbreaks.
Canadians should be deeply committed to making the new workforce a success. We've had first-hand experience with outbreaks of new diseases. We have plenty of experienced healthcare workers, a superb exemplar in Dr. Liu, and many fences to mend with the UN and the global health community. The new workforce will be a good place to start.