The sudden outbreak of Ebola in West Africa last summer was widely and rightly perceived as awakening the rest of the world to a reality many health experts have long understood: infectious diseases that prey disproportionately on the poor are not just a problem for low-income countries. They are a threat to us all. And the world needs to be much better prepared for future challenges, which could involve Ebola or any of a number of other diseases. A key problem in dealing with these challenges is that the Ebola wake-up call of 2014 is in danger of being cancelled out by what might be called the “snooze button” of 2015.

The problem is captured in a new report from the Global Health Technologies Coalition recently released at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The report notes that since 2009, US government investments in global health R&D have been either declining or stagnating. Moreover, GHTC is concerned that global health budgets could face a new round of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that would kick in this fall if President Obama and Congress fail to strike a new budget agreement.

The GHTC report reels off a long list of critically important innovations now under development that could be slowed or even derailed by anemic funding for global health R&D. They include new treatments to counter the disturbing rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria parasites, and bacterial superbugs; new diagnostic tools to help fight outbreaks like Ebola, where health professionals struggle to distinguish between conditions that have frustratingly similar symptoms; and new drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases like leishmaniasis, which threatens 350 million people around the world, and Chagas, which in Latin America kills more people than malaria.

In addition to providing strong and stable funding for global health R&D, the GHTC report urges policymakers to make better use of existing investments and accelerate product development by taking concrete steps to better coordinate the global health work taking place across the government. Key activities include passage of legislation to support R&D efforts at USAID, incorporation of R&D into the Global Health Security Agenda, and creation of an overarching government-wide strategy for global health R&D. The GHTC also believes the US can leverage its leadership and influence in world affairs to ensure global health R&D assumes a prominent place in the United Nations’ new agenda for global development that will be finalized in September.

“At a time when entrenched political divisions are causing many to search for areas of consensus, support for global health R&D stands out as important issue that can attract bipartisan support,” GHTC’s Director Erin Will Morton said. “American-led innovation is also a great antidote to the fear that can surround threats like Ebola and AIDS and a way to encourage a more stable, prosperous and secure world.”

For more information, see:

Medium: Ebola Was the Wake-Up Call for Global Health…Are We in Danger of Hitting the Snooze Button?

Washington Post’s “To Your Health” blog: Why aren’t we producing medications for looming global disease threats?

Infectious Disease News: Report highlights need for continued US support for global health

Voice of America TV: Video: Ebola and Global Health Crisis