Are We Prepared for the Next Outbreak?

A World Bank Survey on Perceptions of Preparedness in the Wake of Ebola

The Ebola outbreak that peaked in mid-2014 sparked more worldwide fear and attention than any epidemic in recent history. The outbreak spread rapidly in 3 countries in Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia), leaving 28,000 infected and over 11,000 dead. Global attention was fueled by the 24-hour news cycle, which broadcast descriptions of the disease’s horrifically gruesome consequences, and images of clinics full of corpses and doctors in moon suits. The disease crossed oceans and spread in Western hospitals that were expected to have had capacity to contain it.

The Question  

Experts believe it’s not a matter of if there is another pandemic, but when. In the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, is the world willing to invest now to prevent another pandemic in the future? The World Bank Group and its partners hoped to help convince donors, policy-makers, and politicians that taking steps to invest in developing countries to prevent the next outbreak was not only the right thing to do morally and economically, but that it was something global publics wanted and valued.

The Research

GQR, working with the World Bank Group and with other stakeholder organizations, designed and fielded a 5-country (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan) web survey with 4,000 respondents, including oversamples in each country of opinion elite respondents (university educated and closely follow global news).

The Results

The survey revealed, more than a year after the height of the Ebola crisis, a high level of concern about global health and disease outbreaks in all 5 developed countries surveyed. Most, including opinion elites, are not convinced the global community, or even their own country, is prepared to respond to the next outbreak. Concern about the certainty of another outbreak and a total lack of preparedness is high enough that majorities support investment in developing countries, not only to protect the health of citizens of those nations, but also to protect the health of their own publics. The survey results became the basis for an op-ed article by the World Bank Group’s president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, as well as a major global media briefing.