Doctors gathering at a Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh conference in Edinburgh today [25 February 2016] on ‘Global Health: Recent Progress & Future Challenges’ will be told that lessons learned from past outbreaks such as SARS can be applied effectively to dealing with emerging infections, for example Zika, if communities can be engaged early enough.

An in-depth session on the Ebola outbreak will feature leading international experts engaged both globally and locally in the issue. Prof David Heymann CBE, Head and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Global Health Security at Chatham House, will be speaking on the global response to Ebola outbreaks since 1976 when the Ebola virus was first identified looking at key phases and challenges in Ebola outbreaks.  He will say that the outbreak of SARS showed that the world can work collaboratively to tackle emerging infections.

Prof Heymann also chaired the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Committee on Zika, which declared the associated microcephaly a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). This is only the fourth time since 2005 that WHO has declared such an emergency. He will be discussing the lessons learned from Ebola and other outbreaks of global concern, and how they can apply to the handling of the Zika virus. 

Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, who is also Chair of the Department of Health’s Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation will be speaking on the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine in the UK. Prof Pollard chaired the Department of Health’s Joint Committee when the decision was made to recommend meningococcal a vaccine for infants in the UK and will talk about how this decision was made.

Delegates will also hear from a range of world-leading experts speaking on topical issues in global health, such as the response to non-communicable diseases and the challenges of neonatal mortality in low- and middle-income countries. There will be debate on the progress made in achieving universal health coverage worldwide; and examples of vaccine introduction and roll-out in around the world.

Speaking at the event, Prof David Heymann said:

“There are many lessons to be learned from previous outbreaks, such as SARS, Ebola and MERS, some of which have been applied more effectively than others.  

“The challenge is to utilise this experience today by engaging communities around the world at the earliest possible stage. While there will always be new and emerging infections, past experience must enable us to move towards preventing them at the source.”

Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

“We are delighted to welcome all of our speakers and delegates to this conference today. 

“It is timely to be discussing these topical issues with the Zika virus at the forefront of the international community’s mind and at a time when we are still learning the lessons from the outbreak of Ebola.

“These are real issues affecting the global community. It is imperative that we learn from the past and take cognisance of emerging threats as early as possible to enable us to deliver an effective response.”

The event has been organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Other speakers at the event include:

  • Dr Tim O'Dempsey, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool on the effect of Ebola on broader health systems
  • Dr Bernadette O’Hare, Senior Lecturer in Global Health Implementation and a Paediatrician at the University of Malawi and the University of St Andrews on Ebola and health systems
  • Dr Harish Nair, Reader in Global Health Epidemiology, Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh on the burden of disease from RSV and prospects for prevention through vaccination
  • Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, Co-Director, Director of Research, Centre for Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada on global new born and child health challenges and opportunities
  • Professor Mickey Chopra, Lead Health Specialist, Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, The World Bank on advancing the sustainable development goal agenda
  • Professor K M Venkat Narayan, Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA on addressing non-communicable diseases through primary care
  • Dr Rob Yates, Senior Fellow, Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House, London on overcoming roadblocks to universal health coverage


Contact: Lisa Rooke, RCPE - 0131 247 3688 / 07717 895628 /

Notes to Editors

  1. The RCPE Symposium on ‘Global Health: Recent Progress & Future Challenges’ will be held at the RCPE, 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh on Thursday 25 February 2016.
  2. The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is an independent standard-setting body and professional membership organisation whose aim is to improve and maintain the quality of patient care.