The fight to stem the rapid spread of an infectious disease is a fight against an infectious agent, as well as a struggle with the conditions that enable outbreaks to persist, such as political instability, insecurity, and economic uncertainty. Most recently, the 2018 Ebola virus disease outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has proved to be wickedly durable for reasons beyond the outbreak itself. Health workers have been attacked and killed, limited government efforts have been stymied due to mistrust, and communities have struggled to find the confidence to mount an effective response – resulting in an outbreak that continues to this day.
Since response efforts must focus on fighting battles on multiple fronts, it is increasingly apparent that solutions must involve community perspectives and experiences in order to curtail the spread of pathogens. Dr. James’ remarks will examine the role of communities in minimizing the risks, managing the hazards and defending against the threats to health and life posed by complex epidemics.
Professor Wilmot James
is a visiting professor of political science and (non-clinical) pediatrics at Columbia University in New York City. An academic by background with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Dr. James was previously a Member of Parliament in South Africa. Professor James serves on the expert panel of the Global Health Security Index and works with the Nuclear Threat Initiative on biosecurity issues, catastrophes and emergency response.