Thailand, South Korea leaders in new health index, but Asia has significant gaps

October 25, 2019

LONDON - No country is fully prepared for the next epidemic or pandemic, according to the first edition of the Global Health Security Index, released today.  It shows that only 13 of nearly 200 countries score in the top tier, suggesting that most of the world would struggle to deal with a major outbreak of a deadly infectious disease, such as Ebola.

Thailand and South Korea are among the best-performing countries in the index, but Asia still faces significant gaps.

A project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, with research by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the GHS Index is the first comprehensive assessment of epidemic and pandemic threats globally.

Built around a framework of 140 detailed questions, the Index assesses each country's capacity to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies, as well as the effectiveness of their health systems, their commitment to global norms, and the political, socio-economic and environmental risk factors that can limit response.

The average overall index score is just over 40 of a possible 100, pointing to substantial weaknesses in preparedness. Even among the 60 high-income countries assessed, the average score is barely over 50.

Findings from the Index reveal that:

*Stronger health security conditions are not dependent on whether a country is wealthy, but are driven by a multitude of factors, including effective governance and a strong disease surveillance system. More than 100 high- and middle-income countries score below 50 in the index.

*Even when emergency plans are in place, there is little evidence that countries have tested these capabilities to show they would be functional in a crisis.

*More than half of countries face major political and security risks that could undermine national capability to counter biological threats.