February 16, 2017

Recognizing and Reinforcing Canada’s Contributions Toward a World Safe From Pandemic Threats, with Dr. Jonathan Quick

Join fellow parliamentarians at a breakfast roundtable with Dr. Jonathan Quick.

When a pandemic virus explodes anywhere in the world, we are all at risk for its potentially devastating consequences — whether the origin is natural (bird flu, Ebola), intentional (bioterror) or accidental (lab bio-error). We know how to keep local disease outbreaks from becoming devastating pandemics. Yet, as Dr. Jonathan Quick will argue, only one in three countries worldwide are today up to the task. From early Roman plagues to the recent West Africa Ebola epidemic, faith workers have demonstrated the power of selfless tenacity in confronting pandemics.

During his March, 2016 meeting with President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau cited “health security for people around the world facing pandemics” as a high-potential area for Canada-U.S. cooperation. Indeed, Canada is already making unique contributions through active participation in the 55-country Global Health Security Agenda, innovations developed by Grande Challenges Canada and Canadian private enterprise and its own pandemic preparedness efforts. Together we will explore the tremendous benefits as well as the daunting challenges of ensuring ongoing support from Canada and all countries toward a world safe from pandemic threats.

Experts from governments, business and private think tanks agree that the threat to human life and livelihoods of a catastrophic pandemic rivals that of global warming, nuclear war, or a catastrophic tsunami. Working with disease-modeling epidemiologists, Bill Gates has concluded that an influenza pandemic not unlike the 1918 Spanish flu could reach every major population center in the world within 100 days. The worst case scenario could top 100 million deaths worldwide and rival the impact of the Great Recession of 2008 on the world’s economy.

Despite the risk, governments, UN agencies and businesses around the world have been seriously under-investing in prevention and preparedness. Once a pandemic virus takes off, the potential devastation is the same, whether the origin is natural (Bird Flu, Ebola), intentional (bioterror) or accidental (lab bio-error).

The risk is not just “over there”. In 2003 the Toronto was virtually closed by SARS, the 21st century’s first novel pandemic virus, which exploded out of China. Commerce plummeted. The Toronto outbreak was soon brought to an end — but not before killing nearly 100 people, knocking more than $1 billion out of the city’s economy and seeding a short-lived outbreak in Vancouver.

Over the last century the “politics of denial” have arguably been the biggest single barrier to adequate, sustained investment in pandemic prevention and response. Chilling examples, include the cold war politics of the 1950’s (whose 15 year delay of smallpox eradication cost 30 million lives), South Africa’s foot-dragging response to AIDS and the recent U.S. Congress battle over Zika funding.

Dr. Jonathan Quick photo

Dr. Jonathan Quick

Dr. Quick is a family physician and health management specialist who has worked in international health since 1978. He served with the World Health Organization from 1996 to 2004 as the Director of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy, handling assignments in more than 70 countries. He then became President and CEO of Management Sciences for Health, a non-profit organization which builds in-country capacity for stronger local health systems in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

He is the senior editor of Managing Drug Supply, co-author of the Financial Times Guide to Executive Health; and has written more than 100 other books, articles and chapters, including the soon to be released The End of Epidemics: The looming threat to humanity and how to stop it. He is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. He has a first degree from Harvard University and an MD, with distinction in research, and masters of public health from the University of Rochester.