Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, has released an interactive digital report highlighting Epidemics That Didn’t Happen, to show how the trajectory of an outbreak can be altered.

The digital report will be used to highlight how investing in and prioritizing preparedness and response systems such as community vaccination programs, can save millions of lives and dollars. As governments contend with the ongoing devastation of COVID-19 and look for lessons for the next pandemic, the report serves as a call to action to global leaders. The world can learn from the experience that African countries have had with infectious diseases, including COVID-19, Ebola and monkeypox.

Dr. Asha Mohammed, Secretary General of Kenya Red Cross said, “The strength of Kenya Red Cross’s community-based surveillance system, along with its community-engagement work, has been invaluable for building support for and trust in emergency preparedness systems. Our case study in the Epidemics That Didn’t Happen report demonstrates that through effective surveillance and risk communication, an anthrax outbreak was contained in Kenya.”

The case studies described in the new report show that devastating human and economic losses can be avoided with modest investments, improved health systems, and better coordination by leaders.

The case studies illustrate different aspects of effective public health programs including

  • Building community trust – How Kenya controlled a deadly anthrax outbreak.
  • A risk-based response – How protective actions stopped yellow fever in Brazil.
  • Effective surveillance – How Uganda detected cases of Ebola at the border.
  • Rapid response teams at the ready – Nigeria’s approach to containing monkeypox.
  • Good governance matters – How Senegal saved lives through government action and early testing.
  • Preemptive action – How an early, strategic response in Mongolia averted a COVID-19 nightmare.
  • COVID-19 Cooperation – Africa’s cohesive, continent-wide response to the pandemic.
  • Investment in public health saves lives – Vietnam’s COVID-19 response is proof.

Commenting on the report, said Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC Director and current President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives said, “This is our now or never moment to invest in public health, to prevent the next pandemic, and ensure that as a world, we are never again so underprepared as we were with COVID-19. Epidemics don’t have to spread uncontrollably and cause devastating loss of life. Epidemics That Didn’t Happen highlights the great work of public health professionals from around the world and shows that if we work together, led by science, we can make the world a much safer and healthier place.”

Among the key lessons highlighted from successful responses to public health emergencies

  • Improve governance to prioritize public health emergencies and address equity gaps
  • Invest in preparedness response and technical assistance
  • Learn from and adapt effective responses from other diseases and other areas
  • Prioritize early warning and response systems by adopting the 7-1-7 goal by being able to identify any new suspected outbreak within seven days of emergence. Later investigate the event within one day and report and begin response to it then, and mount an effective response within seven days.

The case studies were developed with support from health ministries and global health organizations including

  • Kenya Red Cross.
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
  • Infectious Diseases Institute.
  • Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
  • Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health.
  • Pan American Health Organization.
  • Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.