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New Miller School-Led Lancet Study on Redefining the Future of Pandemics

A pioneering study led by researchers with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine aims to prevent and better respond to pandemics by advocating for a global public health convention for the 21st century.

Published on May 5 in the prestigious Lancet Public Health journal, the study outlines 10 recommendations by an international group of thought leaders on how the world can better prevent and prepare for pandemics such as COVID-19 by adopting a robust global public health convention or treaty.

“One of the lessons of the pandemic is that global crises require global responses,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk. “When faced with a novel pathogen, what happens in one country affects every other country. This analysis of our current global governance arrangements is essential to facilitating collective action when humanity as a whole is faced with a health crisis.”

The study was conducted by a research team at the Miller School’s Department of Public Health Sciences under the leadership of José Szapocznik, professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Public Health Sciences. The team compiled the recommendations after gathering and analyzing input from 29 leading experts in a diverse range of disciplines, including public health, public policy, medicine, diplomacy, and economics. 

“To ensure that pandemics are prevented in the future, we must have the systems in place to effectively prevent, prepare and respond to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies,” Szapocznik said. “There are several proposals that are likely to be brought to the World Health Assembly to establish a new binding treaty on pandemics. For a treaty to be effective, however, we believe that there is a need for some form of inspection function and the ability to require governments to take action. This itself may require incentives, disincentives, and possible sanctions.” 

The international group of leaders who outlined the recommendations is part of the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention, which was launched by Szapocznik on April 27. Szapocznik hopes that the study will make valuable contributions to the dialogue around what the future of public health should look like, but also emphasized that a change in the governance of pandemics is required for the benefits of all people around the world. 

Dame Barbara Stocking, chair of the panel and president of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, said that the recommendations in the newly published Lancet study are central to the panel’s efforts to bring about a much-needed paradigm shift in the global public health architecture in the wake of COVID-19.

“We are grateful to the experts who shared their knowledge and experience and to the University of Miami team who devised and conducted the study,” said Stocking. “Now, we must ensure these recommendations reach high-level decision-makers and lay the groundwork for a new legally binding public health treaty or convention.” 

The publication of the study is timely considering the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the health, the economy, and the wellbeing of people globally. 

“Our goal is to ultimately ensure the world learns from the painful lessons of this pandemic so that we are better prepared to protect global health against future outbreaks,” said Szapocznik.

This study was supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and was conducted in collaboration with the AHF Public Health Institute at the University of Miami.

The Panel for a Global Public Health Convention (GPHC) is an independent coalition of global leaders working to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, prepare, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks before they become widespread pandemics. The Panel was founded in 2020 in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of bridging critical gaps in the global public health architecture and policy frameworks by promulgating a new global public health treaty or convention in an effort to ensure another pandemic of such magnitude does not happen again.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on May 24, 2021