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World is Prepared for Next Epidemic

Citizens in France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are not convinced that the world is prepared for another global epidemic like Ebola, and they strongly support investments in developing countries to reduce the threat of infectious diseases, according to a new opinion research survey with 4,000 respondents among the general public and opinion elites across the five nations.

As new cases of Ebola continue to emerge in West Africa, twice as many respondents think the world will experience another global epidemic in the next decade as will not, and fewer than half are convinced that their own country is prepared. Nearly 8 in 10 people believe that investing in doctors, nurses and clinics in poor and developing countries helps prevent epidemics from breaking out in their own countries, while nearly 7 in 10 people say that doctors and nurses in their own countries should be encouraged to work in areas with disease outbreaks, outweighing risks of carrying own countries.

The poll, Preparing for the Next Outbreak: Public Views on Global Infectious Diseases, found that nearly 6 in 10 people support investments and policy changes in developing countries that will help protect their own country from global epidemics, while 7 in 10 believe strengthening health care in developing countries will save the world money. The survey followed the statement by G7 leaders in early June in support of an array of global health investments, including creation of a pandemic emergency financing facility to promote better coordinated and more efficient national and global preparedness efforts and help ensure that financial and other support can flow quickly to contain future outbreaks.

“This survey shows that the public sees global infectious disease outbreaks as a serious threat, and they want leaders to take action to prepare for the next potentially deadly epidemic,” said Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group. “This heightened concern also translates into strong support for investments to strengthen health systems in vulnerable countries, as any country with a weak health system puts both its own citizens and the entire world at risk.”

The survey also reveals a high level of concern about global health among publics and opinion elites in these countries. They rank “global health and epidemics” as one of their top global concerns, and view “global infectious diseases” as the global health issue that concerns them most. People have followed the news about Ebola extensively (general public 72%, opinion elites 85%). In the US and UK, where publics were also queried by KRC Research at the peak of the Ebola outbreak last October, the level of interest has remained high (in US, 85% in October 2014 and 82% in June 2015; in the UK, 81% in October 2014 and 79% in June 2015).

“It is heartening to see from this survey that people now understand the risks global infectious diseases pose to people and the pivotal role that strong, resilient health systems play in global health security. WHO together with the World Bank Group and other partners is accelerating work to build such resilience, enabling countries to identify and stop disease outbreaks and thus reduce national and global health threats,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director General, Health Security, World Health Organization.

Modelling cited by Bill Gates in a recent interview shows that an outbreak today like the 1918 Spanish flu would kill more than 33 million people in 250 days. Previous World Bank Group research has estimated the cost of such a severe outbreak as much as 5% of Global GDP, or US$3.7 trillion based on 2013 GDP.

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The World Bank Group commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a global opinion research and strategy consultancy headquartered in Washington, DC, to design and conduct the survey. It was conducted online from June 15-24, 2015, with 600 general public respondents in each of the five countries. The survey included an oversample of 172-200 opinion elites in each country, defined as those holding a university degree or higher and who follow global news closely.

The World Bank Group’s Response to Ebola and Future Epidemics.

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