In July 2023 the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced a new strategy, outlining its “vision and goals” over 3 years. This strategy is intended to equip the country for health threats, developing capabilities and technologies for the future. The health threats range from infectious diseases, such as pathogens with pandemic potential or seasonal flu, to chemical, radiation, and nuclear hazards. Under the tagline “changing threats need new responses”, UKHSA reflects that the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the effect that health hazards can have on lives and livelihoods, but also how “great strides” can be made through collaboration and innovation.  

Strategic priorities 

The strategy is “underpinned by a commitment to deliver more equitable health outcomes”. Working with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), UKHSA aims to “actively address” health inequalities. The priorities are areas for focused effort identified by UKHSA: 

  • Be ready to respond to all hazards to health. 
  • Improve health outcomes through vaccines. 
  • Reduce the impact of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. 
  • Protect health from threats in the environment.  
  • Improve action on health security through data and insight. 
  • Develop UKHSA as a high-performing agency. 
Growing threats 

UKHSA’s statement suggests that health security challenges are being amplified by disease, “increased global movement”, and climate change, with threats “set to rise in coming years”. One threat that is predicted to grow is AMR, a top 10 global public health threat with deaths expected to double by 2050. UKHSA also notes that childhood immunisation rates are “at their lowest in a decade”, with risks of measles rising and the potential for resurgences of “serious childhood diseases”.  

Dame Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive, commented that health threats “should not be underestimated”.  

“It is absolutely vital that the UK’s public health protection infrastructure and scientific expertise are equal to the challenge.”  

Dame Harries emphasised that UKHSA will work across sectors, ensuring that the UK is “in the best possible position to respond to the hazards that we will face in coming years”.  We look forward to hearing more from Dame Harries at the World Vaccine Congress in Barcelona this October. Get your tickets here to join us then!

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