If a serious infectious disease blossomed across the globe today, the U.S. death toll could be double that of all the casualties suffered in wars since the American Revolution. Those 2 million potential American lives lost to a global pandemic is just one sobering statistic cited in a new report released today by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that urges sustained U.S. spending on global health initiatives. It also calls on the federal government to develop a new “International Response Framework” to guide the nation’s preparation and reaction to intercontinental epidemics and global pandemics.
“While global crises have largely been avoided to date, the lack of a strategic [U.S.] approach to these threats could have grave consequences,” the report warns. “If the system for responding to such threats remains reactionary, the world will not always be so lucky.”
The next epidemic—whether from nature or bioterrorism—is a question of “when,” not “if,” according to the authors of the report, titled Global Health and the Future Role of the United States. They say the 313-page tome is intended to send a strong message that investing in public health beyond U.S. borders is more than a philanthropy project; it’s also a matter of economic stability and national security here at home.