Bold Thinking at Abt: Global Health Security

Bob Fryatt

Director, Health, Finance and Governance Project
Sustainable Roadmap | Bio

When is an outbreak a global health crisis? For over 30 years, Bob Fryatt has seen how advance preparation and planned response makes the difference.
“Zika and Ebola show what can happen in any part of the world,” says Fryatt. “When diseases come out unexpectedly, being prepared is key and that is what global health security is about. People and systems have to ready to deal with whatever infectious disease it might be. If they’re not, it can quickly lead to a global crisis that at that point, you can’t manage locally.”

Strengthening Health Systems in the Caribbean

As Project Director for the Health, Finance, and Governance (HFG) project which works across the globe, including in the Caribbean, Fryatt is responding to all types of health situations around the globe. As part of HFG’s work in global health security, Fryatt and his colleagues are working across Caribbean nations to strengthen regional health systems for current and future crises. Self-assessments prepared by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are identifying needs and capabilities, and Fryatt explains, the data will be used to develop a roadmap for the Caribbean region as a whole.
“We are taking regional assessments, analyzing the data and working with political and public health stakeholders to help them develop a roadmap that will lay the groundwork for how these countries will work together in the future,” he says, “from getting various national public health laboratories to work together and share data, to making sure the data aligns across the region, so that they are ready for whatever crisis may occur.”
Fryatt recognizes that global health security is as much about sustainability as it is new science methods. “The goal of the global health security agenda work is prevention, detection and response, and working out in advance what the response is, and how that will be achieved. Where you have weak systems, it’s hard to get an adequate response.”

Communication and Engagement are Keys to Success

But he warns, community engagement and good communication are key and must be present from the very beginning. Recalling his learnings from past outbreaks, he explains that good communication with local communities can go a long way in facilitating needed dialogue and public health action.
“It’s not good enough just to have experts flying in and working with the authorities,” he says. “People need to know what’s going on, what they should do, and how they can respond.”
That may be easier said than done, he admits, but after working in infectious disease control around the world, Fryatt sees the same issues come up, regardless of the outbreak of the day.
“If you have good prevention, you prevent the panic and get around a lot of this. My hope for the Caribbean is that whether it is a Zika threat, cholera, or something else, there is a way of responding that we’ve worked out in advance, so people know what to do, and communities can be reassured that the appropriate agencies are ready to respond when necessary. That’s when you can contain an outbreak and avert a shock or greater crisis.”

Areas of Expertise

  • Public health and health systems specialist
  • Health systems strengthening
  • Public health strategy Institutional development
  • Governance
  • Health economics
  • Service delivery reforms