In 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Emerging Pandemic Threats program (EPT-1), a 5-year program targeting “the early detection of new disease threats; enhanced ‘national-level’ preparedness and response capacities for their effective control; and a reduction in the risk of disease emergence by minimizing those practices and behaviors that trigger the ‘spill-over and spread’ of new pathogens from animal reservoirs to humans.” EPT-1 complemented an ongoing line of work USAID has supported since 2005: to control the threat posed by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (AI) virus.
Both of these efforts grew out of a recognition that we are now in an era of new, re-emerging and recurring global health threats that argue for a longer-term, more strategic approach to global health security. EPT-1 and AI work has been focused on building those capacities and expanding the evidence base that contributes to mitigating the impact of novel “high consequence pathogens” arising from animals. Using a “risk-based” formula that targeted those places, populations and practices that contribute to the emergence and spread of new microbial threats, our EPT-1 and AI work has laid the foundation for a next generation of investments that seeks to consolidate these efforts into a highly coordinated program spanning pandemic influenza and other emerging threats to further minimize their potential for global impact. EPT-2 will also make major contributions to the Global Health Security Agenda to more effectively address threats posed by the natural emergence of new disease threats, as well as the intentional and/or accidental release of dangerous pathogens.
Like its predecessors, EPT-2 has three overarching purposes: the prevention of new zoonotic disease emergence; the early detection of new threats when they do emerge; and their timely and effective control. EPT-2 will build on the lessons and knowledge from its predecessors and bring heightened focus to those “places and practices” that enable not just “spill-over” of new microbial threats, but also potentiate its “amplification and spread.” EPT-2 will also invest in the One Health policies and capacities needed for their prevention and control. At the core of EPT-2 are seven new areas of strategic focus:
- Developing longitudinal data sets for understanding the biological drivers of disease emergence
- Understanding the human behaviors and practices that underlie the risk of “spill-over, amplification and spread” of new viral threats
- Promoting policies and practices that reduce the risk of disease emergence
- Supporting national One Health platforms
- Investing in the One Health workforce
- Strengthening national preparedness to respond to events of public health significance
- Strengthening global networks for real-time bio-surveillance