Not the last pandemic: Investing now to reimagine public-health systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed overlooked weaknesses in the world’s infectious-disease-surveillance and -response capabilities—weaknesses that have persisted in spite of the obvious harm they caused during prior outbreaks. Many countries, including some thought to have strong response capabilities, failed to detect or respond decisively to the early signs of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. That meant they started to fight the virus’s spread after transmission was well established. Once they did mobilize, some nations struggled to ramp up public communications, testing, contact tracing, critical-care capacity, and other systems for containing infectious diseases. Ill-defined or overlapping roles at various levels of government or between the public and private sectors resulted in further setbacks. Overall, delayed countermoves worsened the death toll and economic damage.

Correcting those weaknesses won’t be easy. Government leaders remain focused on navigating the current crisis, but making smart investments now can both accelerate COVID-19 response and strengthen public-health systems to reduce the chance of future pandemics. Investments in public health and other public goods are sorely undervalued; investments in preventive measures, whose success is invisible, even more so. Many such investments would have to be made in countries that cannot afford them.

Nevertheless, now is the moment to act. The world has seen repeated instances of what former World Bank president Jim Kim has called a cycle of “panic, neglect, panic, neglect,” whereby the terror created by a disease outbreak recedes, attention shifts, and we let our vital outbreak-fighting mechanisms atrophy.1 And while some are calling the COVID-19 crisis a 100-year event, we might come to see the current pandemic as a test run for a pandemic that arrives soon, with even more serious consequences. Imagine a disease that transmits as readily as COVID-19 but kills 25 percent of those infected and disproportionately harms children.

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Πηγή: mckinsey

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