The covid-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses and unpreparedness of health systems worldwide. When the virus was at its peak, many low- and middle-income countries struggled to save lives while keeping essential medical services running, such as maternal health care, routine childhood immunizations, and disease treatment. not transferable.
After that traumatic period, it’s tempting to hold out hope that the worst is behind us. Unfortunately, the future is likely to bring more frequent public health crises due to climate change, urbanization, deforestation, water scarcity, land use changes, animal-to-human pathogen transmission, and frailty. conflict induced.
To limit the impact that the coming crises will have on lives and livelihoods, governments must take urgent action to increase the resilience of their health systems. According to a recent World Bank report, a resilient health system is an integrated system that allows threats and risk factors to be more quickly identified; it is an agile system and, therefore, capable of responding quickly to changing needs; it is absorbent, in order to contain shocks; and adapts, to minimize the disturbances that affect health services.
Protecting against health crises also means boosting research capacity and adopting innovations
The recently created Pandemic Fund is an additional tool to fill critically important gaps, helping to channel much-needed financial support to developing countries as they strengthen their prevention and response measures, and improve their preparedness before for the next health crisis to come. Established with the support of the G20, the Fund is led by an inclusive board of directors made up of representatives of sovereign donors, recipient country governments, philanthropic foundations and civil society organizations. The Pandemic Fund has already secured commitments of $1.6 billion, and the first round of funding has just been announced.
These additional long-term resources will help countries strengthen their public health systems, increase their awareness of risks, improve their early warning functions, and expand the number of community health workers. Having strong risk communication systems and active community participation can increase trust and can build strong alliances that support quick and efficient responses to crises.
As countries move toward their post-pandemic recovery, they face additional challenges such as inflation, debt sustainability, climate change, aging populations, a high burden of chronic disease, and challenges that may hinder efforts in favor of socioeconomic and gender equality. Resilient health systems can mitigate the impact of these challenges by improving the readiness of services to prevent and manage other health crises and by strengthening essential functions.
Needs and approaches will vary across countries and regions. For example, Cambodia, located at a hotspot with respect to emerging infectious diseases, plans to enhance multisectoral collaboration to incorporate human, animal, and environmental health. Kenya is trying to strengthen its surveillance and laboratory capacity in relation to infection control. And Bangladesh aims to increase the capacity of its health facilities, increase its workforce and microbiology laboratories to deal with future pandemics.
A resilient health system is an integrated system that allows for faster identification of threats and risk factors
Building resilience requires partnerships within and outside the health sector, as well as the participation of civil society and the private sector, both of which have played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Protecting against health crises also means boosting research capacity and adopting innovations by accelerating new medical technologies or expanding digital technologies applied to the delivery of health care services. The task is immense, but the crises of the past offer valuable lessons and show what can be achieved. For example, the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa, accelerated the establishment of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention across the continent, thereby enhancing capacities surveillance and monitoring of the region.
At the present time, as the coronavirus pandemic winds down, we must not rest on our laurels. We have all witnessed the devastating effects of the pandemic. The World Health Organization estimated that in the years 2020 and 2021 almost 15 million additional deaths worldwide could be attributed to the pandemic, which has also undermined hard-won gains in the areas of poverty reduction, of education, health and gender equality.
To improve resilience and preparedness, decisive action is required. With certainty that more crises will occur in the future, countries that make adequate political decisions now regarding the application of lasting and sustainable measures will be in a better position to protect the health of their populations and their economies.