Global Health Security (GHS) Index report authors Jennifer Nuzzo, Jessica Bell, and Beth Cameron address the United States’ inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of its top rank in the GHS Index in a new article for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The article, “Suboptimal US Response to COVID-19 Despite Robust Capabilities,” was published earlier this month.
In October 2019, NTI and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security published the inaugural GHS Index, the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across 195 countries that make up the States Parties to the International Health Regulations (IHR). The Index found that no country was fully prepared for a major health emergency, but it did not anticipate an inadequate response to the pandemic by high-scoring countries like the United States. The article posits that the poor response may be due to certain key factors that garnered low scores, despite high scores in most other categories.
The U.S. was ranked first by the GHS Index because of its high-quality laboratories and scientific staff, Strategic National Stockpile, and emergency distribution and communication plans. However, other highly-ranked countries such as South Korea and Thailand with similar capacities were able to leverage them far more effectively in responding to COVID-19.
In the GHS Index, the U.S. faltered on several key factors, which may explain the country’s struggle to respond to the pandemic. On one key subindicator, the U.S. received the lowest possible score: public confidence in the government. Lack of public trust can undermine public health and disease-control efforts.
The U.S also received low scores on indicators related to the strength of the health care system and the ability of citizens to freely access health care. The Index revealed potential inadequacies in the capacity of the U.S. health care system, as shown by the low number of physicians and hospital beds per capita.
The GHS International Panel of Experts, consisting of 21 experts across 13 countries, agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic as a test case of the capacities assessed by the GHS Index remains highly relevant. As a result of the pandemic and discussions with these experts, the framework for the next GHS Index should be refined so that its metrics include additional capacities, like national testing strategies and medical supply chains, as well as ways to assess national leadership and the role it plays in an effective pandemic response.
Read the full article on JAMA’s website here.