T

he Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola has made 10 recommendations for changes, based on lessons learned from the West African Ebola outbreak and aimed at protecting against future devastating health emergencies.

Read more: International panel calls for an overhaul of WHO

The panel, convened by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the changes it is proposing fall into four themes: preventing major disease outbreaks; responding to major disease outbreaks; producing and sharing of data, knowledge and technology through research; and governing the global system for preventing and responding to outbreaks.

These are paraphrased versions of their recommendations:

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  • The global community should come up with a strategy for strengthening health systems, including funding to help developing countries do so.
  • The WHO should publicly commend countries that report disease outbreaks promptly and name and shame those that delay reporting. Financial incentives to compensate countries for losses linked to transparent disease reporting should be created.
  • The WHO should set up a permanent outbreak response center with a guaranteed budget. It should report directly to the director general.
  • The WHO should name a permanent emergency committee of experts to advise it on the threat posed by outbreaks. The committee should be able to convene itself and should consider adopting a graded system of warnings. Currently, emergency committees can only declare that something is or isn’t a global emergency.
  • The UN should create an independent accountability commission that assesses response to major disease outbreaks.
  • Governments, NGOs, the scientific community, and industry should develop rules for conducting research during an outbreak and a program for accelerating research between crises.
  • Research funders should set up a facility to finance development of vaccines, drugs, disease tests, and other necessary medical equipment for diseases which the pharmaceutical industry won’t develop on its own.
  • A global health committee should be set up as part of the UN Security Council to bring high-level attention to health issues and crises.
  • The WHO should return its focus to its core functions, concentrating on efforts that only the WHO can undertake.
  • The WHO’s executive board should establish a freedom of information policy; countries should stop earmarking the funding they provide the WHO; and countries should demand a WHO director general strong enough to stand up to the most powerful governments.

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