President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to suspend U.S. funding to, and withdraw from, the World Health Organization is “counter to our interests in addressing our needs to save the lives and further the health of Americans, as well as an abandonment of America’s position as a global leader,” says the director of Washington University in St. Louis’ Institute for Public Health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is truly a threat to the entire world and, as such, needs a comprehensive international response,” said infectious diseases specialist William “Bill” G. Powderly, MD, the Larry J. Shapiro Director of the Institute for Public Health and the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine.
“It is very clear that this virus does not respect boundaries — either man-made or natural,” he added. “The unprecedented spread of the virus demonstrates that a coordinated response is needed. That is true within the U.S. and it is equally true when addressing this as a global crisis.
“Global coordination and cooperation is critical to ensure that all the public health tools, including surveillance, monitoring, detection, prevention, research and policy, are available to tackle the threat from the SARS 2 coronavirus,” said Powderly, also director of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine.
“The ability of the United States to protect its own people depends on mobilizing global research and effective sharing of data. Cutting this collaboration in the middle of a pandemic is foolish at best.”
In addition to providing essential global assets that we in the U.S. can use for our responses and planning, the WHO provides technical and scientific expertise in countries with limited resources. Moreover, the organization plays a pivotal role in enabling united efforts against this pandemic and future pandemics, Powderly said.
“Its international role is dependent on funding from the developed world, and withdrawal from the WHO is also signaling our withdrawal from global leadership and a commitment to the health and well-being of the entire planet,” he said. “Our world leadership role over the last 50 years was earned, not granted; we can lose it easily by dismissing the needs of other parts of the world, but will not readily regain it if we abdicate our leadership against COVID now.
“WHO may not be perfect, and its response to the epidemic has had flaws, but our own national response has not been flawless, either, and we gain nothing by abandoning our international commitments.”