A retrospective and prospective analysis of the west African Ebola virus disease epidemic: robust national health systems at the foundation and an empowered WHO at the apex

Lancet. 2015 May 9;385(9980):1902-9. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60644-4.


The Ebola virus disease outbreak in west Africa is pivotal for the worldwide health system. Just as the depth of the crisis ultimately spurred an unprecedented response, the failures of leadership suggest the need for innovative reforms. Such reforms would transform the existing worldwide health system architecture into a purposeful, organised system with an empowered, highly capable WHO at its apex and enduring, equitable national health systems at its foundation. It would be designed not only to provide security against epidemic threats, but also to meet everyday health needs, thus realising the right to health. This retrospective and prospective analysis offers a template for these reforms, responding to the profound harms posed by fragile national health systems, delays in the international response, deficient resource mobilisation, ill defined responsibilities, and insufficient coordination. The scope of the reforms should address failures in the Ebola response, and entrenched weaknesses that enabled the epidemic to reach its heights.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Epidemics / prevention & control
  • Global Health
  • Health Care Reform / organization & administration
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • National Health Programs / organization & administration*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • World Health Organization / organization & administration*