Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress made in public health, on the global level, over the past two decades is threatening to collapse.
On 27 December, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrated the first International day of Epidemic Preparedness. Future pandemics could have more severe repercussions than the ones gone by and this day is supposed to be celebrated in order to raise awareness and exchange information, scientific knowledge and the best practices along with quality education and advocacy programmes on epidemics at the local, national, regional and global levels. It will be used to “highlight the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics” a UN release states.
” COVID-19 is a human tragedy. But it has also created a generational opportunity. An opportunity to build back a more equal and sustainable world,” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations said.
“The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all and respect the rights and freedoms of all.”
There is a need to have a strong, resilient health system, which will serve everyone. According to a WHO statement, it is important to invest in systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. A global health crisis can disrupt supply chains and health systems, effects livelihoods, including women and children as well as the economies of the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
It is also due to the COVID-19 pandemic that the progress made in public health, on the global level, over the past two decades is threatening to collapse. In 2021, nations around the world will have to continue the fight against the coronavirus while also ensuring other health services – like vaccinations, women and child health, HIV, aids, malaria, etc – are still being taken care of.
The WHO has published 10 ways that it will help countries track and prepare for global health emergencies in the next year. They are as follows:
1. Build global solidarity for worldwide health security
The pandemic has shown us that no one is safe until everyone is safe and to ensure that, the WHO states that it will provide support to the most vulnerable communities. They also will build a global health emergencies workforce to expand, train and standardize high-quality public health and medical assistance. Creating a BioBank – a system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples – will encourage the development of safe and effective vaccines and medicines.
2. Speed up access to COVID-19 tests, medicines and vaccines
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. The target for ACT-Accelerator in 2021 are – distributing 2 billion vaccines; 245 million treatments; establishing testing for 500 million people in low- and middle-income countries; strengthening the health systems needed to support them.
3. Advance health for all
2021 is the Year of the Health and Care Worker. WHO also wants to ensure that all countries strengthen their health systems so that they can “respond to COVID-19 and deliver all the essential health services” that will keep everyone healthy without depleting their finances.
4. Tackling health inequities
COVID-19 has exposed the inequalities that exist between and within countries and WHO wants to close the gap in terms of income, gender, ethnicity, living in remote rural areas or disadvantaged urban areas, education, occupation/employment conditions, and disability.
5. Provide global leadership on science and data
WHO will support other countries while also developing their own functions to provide evidence-based recommendations for public health on issues.
6. Revitalize efforts to tackle communicable diseases
COVID-19 related lockdowns stopped the access of many countries to vaccines that are important to prevent other epidemics like measles and yellow fever. The year 2021 will be used to help get these countries back on track and further the progress made over the years.
7. Combat drug resistance
Global efforts to end infectious diseases will succeed if effective medicines to treat them are available. WHO is also working to make sure that antimicrobial resistance is factored into health system strengthening and health emergencies preparedness plans.
8. Prevent and treat NCDs and mental health conditions
WHO’s Global Health Estimates showed that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) were responsible for 7 of the top 10 causes of death in 2019. People with NCDs were also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and it is important that screening and treatment programmes are accessible for all.
9. Build back better
Using COVID-19 as a positive stepping stone, we should address climate change, reduce air pollution and improve air quality.
10. Act in solidarity
COVID-19 has shown us the need to demonstrate greater solidarity – between nations, institutions, communities and individuals, closing the cracks in our defences on which the virus thrives. And in 2021, it will be prioritized.