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Not the last pandemic, says WHO

World must invest in public, primary health

World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to invest in public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future...Thailand is reaping the benefits of 40 years of health system strengthening, he said.

BY B N KUMAR

MUMBAI, Sep 7 (BNC Network): This will not be the last pandemic.

Stating this, World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told global media: But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready – more ready than it was this time.

COVID-19 is teaching all of us many lessons, Dr Tedors said during a virtual conference that one of them is that health is not a luxury item for those who can afford it; it’s a necessity, and a human right.

Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to invest in public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future. In fact, there are many examples of countries that have done exactly that, he said. Thailand is reaping the benefits of 40 years of health system strengthening, he said.

Dr Tedros explained that a robust and well-resourced medical and public health system, allied with strong leadership informed by the best available scientific advice, a trained and committed community workforce with 1 million village health volunteers, and consistent and accurate communication, have built trust and increased public confidence and compliance.

“Public health is the foundation of social, economic and political stability. That means investing in population-based services for preventing, detecting and responding to disease,” he said.

In recent years, Dr Tedors said, many countries have made enormous advances in medicine, but too many have neglected their basic public health systems, which are the foundation for responding to infectious disease outbreaks.

Also Read: COVID Vaccine Not Before Mid-2021, Says WHO

“As you know, Italy was one of the first countries to experience a large outbreak outside China, and in many ways was a pioneer for other countries”, he recalled and explained: Italy took hard decisions based on the evidence and persisted with them, which reduced transmission and saved many lives. National unity and solidarity, combined with the dedication and sacrifice of health workers, and the engagement of the Italian people, brought the outbreak under control.”

Mongolia acted very early, activating its State Emergency Committee in January. As a result, despite neighbouring China, Mongolia’s first case was not reported until March and it still has no reported deaths, Dr Tedors said.

Mauritius has high population density, with high rates of non-communicable diseases and many international travellers, which meant it was at high-risk. But quick, comprehensive action, initiated in January, and previous experience with contact tracing paid off.

Although the Americas has been the most-affected region, Uruguay has reported the lowest number of cases and deaths in Latin America, both in total and on a per capita basis, Dr Tedros said and pointe out: “This is not an accident.”

Uruguay has one of the most robust and resilient health systems in Latin America, with sustainable investment based on political consensus on the importance of investing in public health.

Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat COVID-19. Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children for polio have been utilized for surveillance, contact tracing and care, he said.

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There are many other examples we could give, including Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Viet Nam and more. Many of these countries have done well because they learned lessons from previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, measles, polio, Ebola, flu and other diseases.

That’s why, he said,  “it’s vital that we all learn the lessons this pandemic is teaching us.”

Although Germany’s response was strong, it is also learning lessons, he said welcoming Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that her government will invest 4 billion euros by 2026 to strengthen Germany’s public health system.

Dr Tedros called upon all countries to invest in public health, and especially in primary health care, and follow Germany’s example.

 

 

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