1 July 2013


Professor Nigel Lightfoot

Former Senior Consulting Fellow, Centre on Global Health Security

Jaime Yassif and Arthy Santhakumar


  • Senior leaders across sectors of government share a vital interest in reducing global threats posed by infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring or resulting from a deliberate or accidental release. 
  • Reducing these threats requires a combination of prevention-focused programmes that minimize the likelihood of disease outbreaks, and capacity-building activities aimed at mitigating the effects of outbreaks through early detection and rapid response.  
  • Prevention of deliberate biological attacks requires improvements in the governance of life-science research and dual-use biotechnology, to avoid exploitation for weapons purposes. The prevention of naturally caused outbreaks requires work at the human–animal interface to tackle emerging infectious diseases at the source. 
  • To improve early detection of disease outbreaks, the challenge is to establish an integrated global biosurveillance system and to develop improved diagnostic tests for characterizing outbreaks and understanding their source. 
  • Strengthening capabilities for rapid and effective response to biological threats of international concern requires increased transparency, management of risks posed by infectious diseases at the human–animal interface, improved coordination of international responses to disease outbreaks and capacity-building for rapid development and dissemination of medical countermeasures.
  • In working to strengthen global health security, multi-sectoral collaboration is essential to ensure that the combined resources and expertise of the health and security sectors are effectively used. Improved coordination among global health security initiatives is also necessary to efficiently match resources with needs, avoid redundant efforts and identify gaps.