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ASPPH Fellow Spotlight: ASPPH/CDC Fellow Contributes to Global Health Policy for COVID-19 Response

Mr. Adam Aasen, MPH (University of Minnesota School of Public Health) is currently in his second year of the ASPPH/CDC Public Health Fellowship Program. The progrema is based at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Office of Global Affairs (OGA) where Mr. Aasen is on the Pandemic and Emerging Threats team.

As the global health policy and diplomacy arm of HHS, the OGA has been involved in the COVID-19 outbreak from the very beginning. OGA continues to support the U.S. Government response through the development of global health policy and coordination of the U.S. Government engagement in international partners, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Group of 7, the Group of 20, and other health ministries, organizations, and multilateral partnerships.

The Pandemic and Emerging Threats team within OGA has intrinsically played a role in the broader HHS response to COVID-19, leveraging its broad subject matter expertise. The existing, strong expertise of pandemic influenza experts within the U.S. Government and across the globe has been extensively leveraged in response to COVID-19. Mr. Aasen has been involved with the COVID-19 response by coordinating with international partners around COVID-19 vaccine development, therapeutic development, and international SARS-CoV-2 sample sharing. He is also a part of the team that is leading the ongoing development of U.S. Government policies regarding international access to COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, he supports the HHS engagement with international partners on COVID-19 vaccine confidence.

Mr. Aasen had the honor of being on the U.S. delegation to the 148th WHO Executive Board meeting held January 18 through 26. The annual Executive Board meeting is where the WHO members agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the Health Assembly. Among the many resolutions and decisions considered by the Executive Board, Mr. Aasen supported the creation, drafting, and refining of the U.S. Government positions and statements on the public health implications of implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, the COVID-19 response, WHO strengthening, the Immunization Agenda 2030, and mental health preparedness and response for COVID-19. Additionally, he was able to lead the U.S. Government interagency process on establishing and supporting the first U.S. Government position on mental health preparedness and response in public health emergencies. Mr. Aasen supported the successful negotiation and adoption of a WHO Member State decision point on mental health preparedness and response in public health emergencies by the Executive Board. The 148th Executive Board meeting offered its own extra challenges this year because it was held over January, which coincided with the transition of U.S. Government administrations. It was a fascinating experience for him to learn how to wrap up the end of one administration’s global health priorities, all while a new administration is building their positions and priorities.

Now, as the new administration settles in, Mr. Aasen has been able to support the development of the new administration’s global health policy positions with OGA in response to new Executive Orders and the National Strategy relating to global health and the COVID-19 response. With the U.S. reaffirmation of continued membership in the WHO by Dr. Anthony Fauci – as a part of the U.S. delegation to the 148th Executive Board meeting – global health and pandemic preparedness and response will continue to be at the top of mind internationally. Mr. Aasen is looking forward to continuing his support as an ASPPH/CDC fellow during this critical time for public health at large.