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Report Uppsala Health Summit: 100 years after the Spanish flu – how can we protect ourselves against new epidemics?

Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Warding off the threats of future epidemics will be difficult without better cooperation and contingency plans that allow us to act before a crisis hits. This is one of the messages in a new report summarising the discussions of the Uppsala Health Summit on the theme of Tackling Infectious Disease Threats: Prevent, Detect and Respond with a One Health Approach, which took place in October last year.

Despite major advances in global health, infectious diseases continue to pose a major threat. Seventy-five per cent of all new diseases are zoonotic, that is, diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Many of the most dangerous infections are constantly crossing the species barriers. In addition, trade and modern day travelling have eroded the natural geographical boundaries of many pathogens. The key to overcoming the threats lies in collaboration; human and veterinary medicine, as well as related disciplines, must work much closer together," says Jens Mattsson, Director-General of the National Veterinary Institute of Sweden, which is one of Uppsala Health Summit partners.

At Uppsala Health Summit, 180 experts from 39 countries met to discuss how veterinarians, public health experts, doctors, biologists, ecologists and social scientists can better analyse needs, plan and evaluate efforts together by applying a One Health perspective, which is based on the understanding that human and animal health are closely intertwined.

One of the main conclusions of the discussions at the summit was that important collaborations must be established and maintained during ‘peace-time’ in order to be effectively mobilised when outbreaks occur.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 showed the world the importance of also engaging local communities at an early stage, and developing efforts in close cooperation with them to build on existing structures and traditions. A country or community with good preparedness to handle common diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, is significantly better equipped to handle new and sudden outbreaks.

The conclusions from two days of intensive discussions in seven different workshops have now been compiled in Uppsala Health Summit's Post-Conference Report 2017, which is published today. Some recommendations highlighted in the report are:

  • Develop working collaborations during periods of relative calm and maintain these, utilising existing local structures.
  • Develop opportunities for collaborating on Big Data to better understand disease spread, and to support the development of better and more accessible diagnostics.
  • Develop new thinking around financing mechanisms that support innovation.
  • Hold decision makers accountable for taking the sustainable development goals seriously.
  • Develop understanding of how we can all contribute to a safer world by protecting our environment and animal and human health.

Topics discussed during the meeting included policies and guidelines for zoonotic disease management in livestock, local communities' resilience to infection outbreaks, effective diagnostics, safe vaccines and drugs, innovations and Big Data, and food security using modern DNA technology.

Fact Box

Uppsala Health Summit is a collaborative effort led by Uppsala University, which 2017 included the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala Region, Uppsala University Hospital, the Medical Products Agency, the National Veterinary Institute, the National Food Agency, Uppsala Monitoring Centre, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare – Forte, the City of Uppsala and the network World Class Uppsala.

For more information, please contact Kerstin Stewart, Deputy Project Manager for the Uppsala Health Summit at Uppsala University, mobile +46-(0)70-4250138, email kerstin.stewart@uadm.uu.se

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