Emerging and Re-emerging Disease Funding

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Overview
You and your team of scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) have an opportunity to apply for major funding to fight an infectious disease worldwide. What disease will you choose to present for investigation?  You have to consider all the factors involved in the disease. Is it likely that the disease can be controlled? Is it a deadly disease? Is it widespread? Your team won’t be selected for funding if you don’t choose carefully!


Scenario

You can hardly believe it!  Your team of scientists at the

aerial view of Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, Switzerland. Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki
/File:Views_of_Geneva.jpg

World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland just landed an opportunity to apply for funding for a comprehensive investigation of a global emerging or re-emerging disease. Even being selected to apply is an honor; you’ll be applying for the funding along with top epidemiologists and medical doctors from around the world. You have worked alongside some of those teams who have researched and investigated outbreaks and epidemics and have seen first-hand the devastating effects of infectious diseases.

You have been “on loan” from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) for the last two years; living in Geneva and traveling to infectious disease hotspots around the world is a dream job for anyone in the field. Now, you know another challenge lies ahead.

The latest rash of disease outbreaks around the world—Ebola, Zika, dengue fever, Valley fever,  and malaria, just to mention a few—have come too close together for comfort for anyone in the infectious disease community.  Four cases of the Black Death in the U.S. certainly got the attention of the public there; you know that many other devastating diseases circulate the globe and could escalate to outbreak or epidemic proportions quickly. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other countries’ Ministries of Health, and WHO often work collaboratively to tackle dangerous infectious diseases that could spread through populations and even into other countries.

Your team’s investigation into the last Ebola outbreak impressed many epidemiologists and administrators worldwide and captured the notice of many people in positions to fund further projects.

A group of anonymous donors has now agreed to donate the funds necessary for a comprehensive investigation that will include not only a thorough investigation of a particular disease and its infectious pathogen, but also how the project would combat the disease through worldwide efforts. They have the resources to coordinate the kind of interorganizational effort needed to ensure effective strategies in remote locations. Their goal is eventually having complete control of the targeted disease; they know it will be a worldwide, long-term effort.  Your team needs to begin work immediately to assemble a complete proposal for funding. You have the chance to make a significant change in the consequences of an infectious disease worldwide.

You think of all the desperate situations you have seen in your work fighting outbreaks in some of the poorest areas in the world. Billions of people around the world suffer from infectious diseases. These people are often the world’s poorest, lacking resources, access to healthcare, medicine, and the proper nutrition that may make a difference in fighting off crippling disease or death.

Their susceptibility to the presence of infectious agents in turn impairs their ability to earn a living. The cycle continues.

huts on water
Inadequate housing and poor quality water supplies affect health conditions.

Despite these hardships and challenges, efforts to combat infectious diseases have been highly successful in some cases. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, smallpox was eradicated through multiple strategies worldwide. The last case of smallpox, a disease that killed an estimated 300-500 million people in the 20th century was reported in Somalia in 1977. Guinea worm disease, once reported in hundreds of countries, had only 126 reported cases in 2014 and only 22 cases in 2015. Polio, a crippling viral disease, was eliminated in the United States by 1979 after widespread vaccination programs.

But now, an increase in emerging and re-emerging diseases is occurring. The reasons are complex. In order to attempt to control a disease, the conditions that favor the disease must be understood.

Task

Your team will be presenting your proposal at an international gathering along with other top epidemiological teams. You know there are many diseases that would qualify for this funding opportunity and you also know what a difference it would make to millions of lives if any of them were funded.

You want your team to be chosen for funding and you will have to choose carefully, do thorough research, investigate all necessary actions and cover every angle so that your team’s infectious disease is the one chosen for research funding.

Your team will need to present a compelling argument. You will have to be knowledgeable about every aspect of the infectious disease and the global conditions that make it such a critical healthcare issue.

Final selection of funding will depend on the strength of your proposal. Key considerations should be:

  • The worldwide impact of the disease (How many people are killed or left debilitated by this disease?)
  • What is the scale and severity of the disease?
  • How contagious is the disease? Is it capable of producing a worldwide pandemic?
  • How likely is it that major efforts such as the ones proposed by this funding will result in the prevention of the disease or a significant impact in the quality of lives affected by this disease?
  • What prevention and control efforts should be included in your plan? Be specific.

 

Note: Do not consider budgetary problems—a finance committee will take your recommendations and work up a fiscal proposal.

Guiding Questions: 

  1. Why has there been an increase in outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging diseases? Are these reasons likely to continue to increase disease occurrence? Explain.
  2. What is the disease-causing agent (pathogen), symptoms of disease, transmission method, treatment, disease progression, and morbidity (disease) and mortality (death) rates for your chosen infectious disease?
  3. What is the most compelling reason for your selection of this disease?
  4. What prevention and control efforts could be implemented that could result in effective mitigation of the disease?
  • Are these reasonably achievable?
  • Consider the likelihood of success for control, elimination, or eradication when you make your choice.
  1. What national/international partnerships could help in the effort?
  2. Defend your selection of the infectious disease you chose for possible eradication funding.

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