Health and Human Services Department (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt and Gao Qiang, minister of health for the Peoples Republic of China, signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week to establish a collaborative program to address emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, beginning with influenza.
The two sides reached agreement to promote closer cooperation, capacity-building and exchange of information in the field of infectious diseases, specifically identifying Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and influenza, including avian influenza, as two priority areas of focus.
President Bush and President Hu Jintao initially discussed bilateral cooperation to address infectious diseases during the height of the SARS outbreak, and former HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and former health minister Wu Yi began detailed negotiations soon after. The new agreement is the culmination of two years of cooperative efforts between HHS and China in the aftermath of SARS.
This is an important step in building a global network of surveillance that will help us detect disease outbreaks before they spread so we can better protect the American people and people all over the world, Leavitt said. It is a timely agreement, given the urgency of our efforts to prepare for a global pandemic, and it reflects the leadership of President Bush in bringing together China and nations in the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza to address this worldwide threat.
The pact establishes biennial Ministerial meetings between HHS and the Chinese Ministry of Health, a Collaborative Committee with 11 senior public health officials and recognized experts from both organizations, a secretariat for program management, and a program office for project implementation located in the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an organ of the Ministry.
The Collaborative Committee will include HHS representatives from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and the Office of Global Health Affairs, along with representatives from similar agencies from the Ministry of Health to accomplish the following:
-- support the public health laboratory network in China and strengthen its ability to monitor and detect infectious diseases
-- train professionals from both nations in biomedical research, prevention and control of infectious diseases
-- conduct joint surveillance on emerging infectious diseases
-- develop prevention and control strategies, diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapeutics and enhance both countries capacity to rapidly respond to outbreaks with joint China-U.S. response teams through the exchange of specimens, reagents, testing protocols and equipment.
Our doctrine for pandemic preparedness recognizes that the outbreak of disease anywhere, means risk everywhere, Leavitt said. No nation can afford to ignore this threat, and we are pleased that China, by signing this agreement, will be an international partner in our pandemic preparedness and response efforts.