SFU professor Kelley Lee among global health experts calling for reforms to strengthen Ebola outbreak response

November 23, 2015

SFU health sciences professor Kelley Lee, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Health, is among an independent panel of 19 global health experts calling for urgent action to avoid a repeat of the major failings that occurred during the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The independent panel, convened by the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, issued 10 key recommendations to fix existing institutional failings in a report published today in The Lancet medical journal.

The outbreak resulted in more than 11,000 deaths. According to the report, many were caused by the slow, poorly resourced and uncoordinated global response.

Kelley Lee

“The main message of our report is that the recent response to the Ebola outbreak held a mirror up to the existing weaknesses in our current system—or more accurately, the lack of a system,” says Lee.

“We have a chaotic jumble of institutions and practices that sometimes works together, but more often does not.  We need to strengthen the institutions responsible for protecting the world from such deadly outbreaks.”

Amid widespread and accelerating globalization, the report calls on world leaders to build an effective system of global health governance to deal with future outbreaks that potentially threaten all countries.

“Canada, as a country at the crossroads of globalization, must actively contribute to these efforts,” says Lee, whose research focuses on how the global health community can ensure a better response to future global disease outbreaks. 

“Canadians responded generously during the Ebola outbreak by donating funds and some courageously traveled to the affected region to work with non-governmental organizations on the ground. However, the previous government’s adoption of visa restrictions was disappointing and potentially counterproductive.”

Lee challenges Canada to play a stronger role in supporting the design and creation of a global health governance system that benefits the entire world.

“Canada gave the world the remarkable Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) system and has other innovations to offer,” she says.

The GOARN system is a global network that ensures technical expertise and skills are on the ground where and when they are most needed during an outbreak.