Governance Implications of Emerging Infectious Disease Surveillance and Response as Global Public Goods

Joshua Michaud

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a continuing and serious threat to global health and welfare, but worldwide, country-level disease surveillance and response capacities are generally weak. These weaknesses can lead to late recognition of emerging pandemics and tardy and ineffective responses to these events, which in turn can lead to greater human and economic costs. This article applies a global public goods (GPG) framework to EID surveillance and response, and determines that viewing these activities through the GPG lens helps to explain why current weaknesses exist. As GPGs, EID surveillance and response are prone to collective action difficulties, with countries that act individually failing to achieve coordinated action for mutual benefit. All countries would be better off under a system of greater cooperation and provision of these goods but without better trust-building and properly structured international institutions, continued reliance on individual country-level decisionmaking only perpetuates the current situation. Solutions for achieving better provision of these GPGs include developing a better understanding of benefits vs. costs of global EID surveillance and response and implementing institutions that take advantage of the pre-existing incentives that countries already have to protect themselves from EIDs.