Photo by: Pixabay user pedro_wroclaw

Why it matters: Current discussions about preventing the next pandemic are heavily focused on taking action only after people get sick. But science and recent experience make clear that we can take actions that stop pandemic pathogens before they infect anyone while at the same time making gains on climate and health.

The background: Over the last 100 years, about two viruses a year have made a jump from animals to people. These “spillover” events are driven by actions like deforestation, wildlife trade, and risky agricultural practices. Climate change also is pushing  animals on land and in the sea to move to new places, creating opportunities for pathogens to get into new hosts.

The upshot: At a fraction of the cost of managing a pandemic after it starts, we can make investments in safeguarding nature that could dramatically cut the risks of another pandemic ever emerging while conferring additional benefits that are good for our health and good for the planet.

What we’re doing:

Scientific Task Force to Prevent Pandemics at the Source

Together with Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), we have convened a group of experts from around the world to identify the most effective ways to prevent new infectious diseases like COVID-19 before they start. 

Their report outlines the strong scientific foundations for taking actions to stop the next pandemic by preventing the spillover of pathogens from animals to people. It provides recommendations for research and actions to forestall new pandemics that have largely been absent from high-level discussions about prevention, including a novel call to integrate conservation actions with strengthening healthcare systems globally. 

Their findings will be translated into international policy recommendations to inform discussions about how global leaders can not only contain the next pandemic, but prevent it from emerging in the first place.

Read more about the task force

Research on the costs of pandemic prevention

A study co-authored by our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein found that the costs of preventing future zoonotic outbreaks like COVID-19—by preventing deforestation and regulating the wildlife trade—are as little as $22 billion a year, 2% of the economic and mortality costs of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which some economists predict could reach $10-20 trillion.

Read the study

Protecting forests and changing agricultural practices are essential, cost-effective actions to prevent pandemics

Our new report outlines the strong scientific foundations for taking actions to stop the next pandemic by preventing the spillover of pathogens from animals to people.

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Solutions for preventing the next pandemic

The cost of preventing the next pandemic is 2% of the cost we’re paying for COVID-19.

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As Covid-19 cases rise, global task force lays out how to avert future pandemics

New report suggests that investing in conservation, improving agricultural practices, and strengthening healthcare systems can help prevent future pandemics.

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Preventing future pandemics depends on environmental action, Harvard task force finds

Environmental efforts, such as forest preservation and wildlife trade regulation, are essential to preventing future pandemics.

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New report calls for preventing human pandemics at the animal source

Preventing the next pandemic by stopping the spillover of animal pathogens to humans would be far less expensive than fighting a pandemic after it begins.

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New Report from Harvard and Global Experts Shows Investments in Nature Needed to Stop the Next Pandemic

Protecting forests and changing agricultural practices are essential, cost-effective actions to prevent pandemics.

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Harvard launches international task force to prevent future pandemics

Our Director, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, discusses the Scientific Task Force to Prevent Pandemics at the Source, which aims to prevent pandemics by reducing the likelihood of infectious diseases transferring from animals to humans.

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How to stop the next pandemic before it starts

Being prepared for the next pandemic is important—but we should also be focused on stopping it entirely.

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World leaders ‘ignoring’ role of destruction of nature in causing pandemics

Ending the destruction of nature to stop outbreaks at source is more effective and cheaper than responding to them, says our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein

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New Task Force To Study How Viruses Spread From Animals to Humans In Order To Prevent Future Pandemics

Our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein spoke to Arun Rath of GBH News about how preventing a future pandemic is cost-effective if we invest it in the right places.

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The Best Way To Prevent The Next Pandemic? Maybe Saving Tropical Forests

Our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein is leading an international task force to help prevent the next pandemic before it starts.

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Harvard Launches International Scientific Task Force to Prevent Pandemics at the Source

Harvard Chan C-CHANGE and HGHI are launching a Scientific Task Force for Preventing Pandemics at the Source, led by our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein.

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Dr. Aaron Bernstein

Aaron Bernstein MD, MPH

Aaron examines the human health effects of global environmental changes with the aim of promoting a deeper understanding of these subjects among students, educators, policy makers, and the public.

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