On March 24, 2017 the conference “Putting Outbreaks into perspective” was held at the French Embassy in Berlin. The conference, organized by the Centre Virchow-Villermé (CVV) and the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI) in collaboration with the Department for Science and Technology of the embassy, aimed to address the issue of epidemics in a context of globalized mobility. As for previous CVV conferences, major stakeholders in Global Health were invited and shared their expertise in presentations and panel discussions: the World Health Organization (WHO), RKI, Health Department of Frankfurt/Main, Doctors without Borders, Sanofi and Academia.
The conference highlighted the fact that many players intervene during an outbreak at the local and global level: scientists, public institutions, policy-makers, civil society, WHO. Communication between these actors is essential to contain the outbreak as soon as possible, but can be difficult or delayed when collective hysteria around a distant epidemic, lack of reaction from political authorities, lack of open data, lack of communication between scientists and policy makers or between the local and global level come into play.
Although the increased mobility of pathogens (due to the increased human, animal and product mobility) is worrying, digital tools and mathematical models allow to better predict the most probable spreading route of pathogens.
Moreover, it is challenging to sustain political will and funding once the crisis is over. Yet, in order to prevent the next outbreaks, it is essential to strengthen health systems in developing countries and to develop vaccines even if there is no emergency. Solutions exists, and a coalition of public and private organizations, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), has been created.
The speakers agreed that global health security issues such as the protection of national borders only provide short-term solutions at a local level, whereas solidarity-based approaches and sustainable concepts are needed to provide viable answers to global health problems.