A year ago, a board newly formed by the World Health Organization and World Bank released its first-ever report warning the world was at high risk of a global pandemic that would cause massive loss of life, economic devastation and social chaos. Just months later, the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic proved that warning tragically prescient.
On Monday, that panel known as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, released its second report, outlining lessons learned from the ongoing pandemic and presenting five key calls to action both to confront COVID-19 and to prepare for future pandemics that it says are sure to come.
“Will this happen again? Unfortunately, yes,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and one of the GPMB’s co-chairpersons. “There are actions we can take to prevent a pandemic and to mitigate its impact.” Without such actions, Brundtland said the world risks “falling back into the cycle of panic and neglect.”
Brundtland and Elhadj As Sy, GPMB co-chairperson, head of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board and former secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, presented the report’s findings online to an international audience.
The GPMB was created to inform global policymakers and populations about preparedness and response capabilities for disease outbreaks and other health-related emergencies.
To strengthen the ongoing response to COVID-19 and to prepare for future health emergencies, the GPMB report, “A World in Disorder,” recommends:
— Responsible leadership. Heads of government, leaders of national and international organizations and health care manufacturers must take “early decisive action based on science, evidence and best practice” and avoid the politicization of public health when facing a health emergency.
— Engaged citizenship. Citizens must demand accountability from their governments, and they should also take personal responsibility to educate themselves and others about health-promoting actions. “Pandemics begin and end in communities,” Sy said, and consistent science-based messaging is critical to reduce misinformation at the community level.
— Strong and agile national and global systems for global health security. Heads of government must commit to creating better systems for preparedness by coordinating research, financial institutions, the private sector and national and international health organizations to ensure safe, equitable and sustained response to an emergency.
— Sustained investment in prevention and preparedness commensurate with the scale of a pandemic threat. G20 leaders, other heads of government, the United Nations, the World Bank and international financial institutions should create a mechanism for sustainable financing for global health security. “The return on investment for global health security is immense,” the report states. “Expenditures for prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, the cost of a pandemic in trillions. It would take 500 years to spend as much on investing in preparedness as the world is losing due to COVID-19.”
— Robust global governance of preparedness for health emergencies. Leaders should commit to strengthening international health regulations and convene a UN summit on global health security to create an international framework for health emergency preparedness and response.
U.S. President Donald Trump blames China for the ongoing global pandemic and in late May he said his administration will withdraw America from the WHO. On Tuesday, Brundtland, a former WHO director-general, called last year’s report a “stern warning” for countries, adding that the impact of the predicted pandemic has been “even worse than we anticipated.”
COVID-19 has placed the world at a crossroads, Sy said. “One path continues down the road of panic and neglect, leading to catastrophe and devastation. The other creates an opportunity to recognize the vulnerability in our interconnected, crowded and environmentally stressed planet and embraces our common humanity in formulating effective solutions. Yes, we have only one planet and we must protect it. We have only one humanity and we must care for it.”
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Global Health Board Calls on Countries to Prepare for Next Pandemic originally appeared on usnews.com