Global Advocacy and Communications Effort Launched to Drive Action Against COVID-19 and Stop Future Pandemics
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup Winning Captain Siya Kolisi kickstarts behavior change efforts “For Humankind”; calls on other stars from sports and screen to continue to rally around protective actions, like #MaskingForAFriend
April 22, 2020, Seattle, WA – A network of leading international organizations announced today the creation of an advocacy initiative to ignite a global movement to help accelerate an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and enhance our preparedness to stop future pandemics. The Pandemic Action Network will advocate for policy changes and increased support and resources to ensure countries are better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to pandemic threats. This initiative will also host “For Humankind”, a new effort to promote accurate information to ensure people around the world understand what they need to do to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extreme fragility in the ability of the world’s systems to respond to a new and highly infectious pathogen. While public health experts have been making this case for years, there has not been complementary policy, advocacy and communications support to create the political will necessary for policy and funding changes to enhance our preparedness.
This effort is being created with support from founding members the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Schmidt Futures. The Network will initially comprise of a dedicated and highly experienced secretariat and key advocacy leaders in Seattle, Washington DC, Brussels, London and Beijing. They will work in partnership with individuals and organizations around the world to advance a robust policy and advocacy agenda.
The Pandemic Action Network will steer this shared agenda, with three overarching objectives:
- Ensure full funding for the global and country-level COVID-19 response and future pandemic preparedness
- Strengthen the global health security architecture for more effective pandemic preparedness and response
- Accelerate research, development and access to innovations to combat COVID-19 and emerging pandemic threats
A core principle of the Pandemic Action Network is that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe,’ meaning an equitable global lens is crucial for a successful response. “West Africa’s devastating Ebola epidemic showed us that the world must come together to ensure countries are prepared for outbreaks, including that health workers on the frontlines have the gear and training they need to keep safe and keep serving,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Health Workforce. “Decisive political leadership and global cooperation will determine if we win the war against this invisible enemy, which is why we need the Pandemic Action Network.”
The Pandemic Action Network will be counseled by an international expert advisory council that will initially include Professor Peter Piot, currently director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and previously founding executive director of UNAIDS and the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, and Dr. Judy Monroe, head of the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit that mobilizes philanthropic and private-sector resources to support the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work; among others. Additional experts will be announced.
“It’s critical that the philanthropic, public and private sectors work together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “And it’s clear that a coordinated effort is needed to prepare for, and hopefully prevent, the next pandemic. The CDC Foundation is pleased to join the Pandemic Action Network in this goal.”
Private sector support for the Network is led by founding member Johnson & Johnson. The company has been actively engaged in fighting pandemics for more than a century, first introducing the epidemic mask in 1919 to help contain the Spanish Flu. In January it rapidly mobilized its scientific expertise and extensive partnerships to tackle COVID-19. “While we focus on stopping COVID-19 now we must also keep one eye to the future and ensure we are learning from this experience and applying those lessons. Effective, sustained and coordinated advocacy about the policy and system reforms necessary to prevent future outbreaks will be critical to ensure this happens,” said Adrian Thomas, M.D., Vice President, Global Public Health at Johnson & Johnson. “That’s why the world needs the Pandemic Action Network.”
The Pandemic Action Network will also serve as a hub for expert global communications efforts to amplify public health messaging needed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Its first digital communications campaign, #MaskingForAFriend, will amplify consistent, accurate messaging endorsed by leading public health officials to make sure people know how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 by using homemade cloth face coverings.
“Everyone has a part to play in protecting the public’s health. We all have agency,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Moore Foundation. “We can use our ingenuity and know-how to reduce everyone’s risk of exposure, create better ways of meeting social needs, reduce the burden of disease, and overcome the dislocation and hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The campaign will initially launch in the United States and South Africa to help increase understanding on the need to use cloth face coverings in public, along with continuing other protective measures like social distancing and handwashing. The Pandemic Action Network will provide an open source global platform for public health messages and materials to be used worldwide. Planned expansions include India and countries in Africa, Europe and South America.
Siya Kolisi, captain of South Africa’s Rugby Team, kicked off the effort, calling on the public in both countries to wear a mask outside their homes to protect others from contracting the virus. Siya, and other influencers like Andy Cohen and Annie Potts, have started posting about how they are #MaskingForAFriend. They also encourage others to join the movement by spreading the word about wearing homemade masks, and sharing a selfie image or video wearing a cloth face covering during essential errands or making masks using the hashtag #MaskingForAFriend.
“I am proud to use my platform to share accurate health information with as many people as possible to help stop this virus in its tracks,” said Kolisi. “As a captain, I now call on other sports leaders to model good protective behavior – whether it be staying home, washing hands or covering your face. We need to do it ‘For Humankind.’”
The Pandemic Action Network is composed of experienced leaders in global advocacy, policy and communications based around the world. It is the brainchild of Gabrielle Fitzgerald (CEO, Panorama), Carolyn Reynolds (Distinguished Fellow with The George Institute for Global Health and Senior Associate with the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS), Eloise Todd (formerly of ONE Campaign and Best for Britain) and David Kyne (CEO of Evoke KYNE, a firm that specializes in international behavior change communications activities, including past efforts during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa). They will be joined by Greg Propper from social impact firm Propper Daley.
“We have known for many years that a pandemic could occur at any point,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, CEO of Panorama, a Seattle-based action tank, and co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must build and sustain political will to ensure that policies are put in place, and funding is made available, to ensure all countries are better prepared for the next outbreak.”
The growing list of multilateral organizations, private companies, foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector joining the Network include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CDC Foundation, Evoke, Evoke KYNE, Federation of American Scientists, Global Citizen, Global Health Strategies, Global Health Technologies Coalition, Goodbye Malaria, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, iHeart Media, Johnson & Johnson, Last Mile Health, Management Sciences For Health, NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative), ONE Campaign, PATH, Panorama, Project Everyone, Propper Daley, Schmidt Futures, The Kolisi Foundation, UN Foundation, Wellcome and #PlayAPartTogether, a group of more than 70 gaming companies.