COVID-19 not last pandemic, resilient health system needed: WHO Chief Scientist

She emphasised on the importance of global collaboration and understanding in dealing with a pandemic

No country in the world was prepared for the pandemic barring a few, said Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO). "What became clear was that countries that had invested in public health and primary health care systems even though they used low tech measures actually did better," she said.

Speaking at Business Today's Mindrush 2021 themed 'The Post Pandemic Paradigm', on Friday, January 22, Swaminathan discussed the new global health care dynamics.

Citing the examples of Vietnam, Thailand and Senegal who fared better in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Swaminathan said these countries used primary health care systems, strong links with the community and also their past experiences (SARS-1) to detect and respond relatively much faster than many high-income countries.

High-income countries have excellent tertiary health care facilities but over the years their public health surveillance systems have weakened, she said.

This, she said, is a good lesson for India as it builds its health system because it is conspicuous now that it isn't enough to invest in tertiary health care systems alone.

Swaminathan is of the view that this is not the last pandemic that we'll see. "Let's not kid ourselves, I think this is going to happen increasingly in the future. This is certainly not the last pandemic or the last health shock we are going to see," she said.

Climate change and health are also very closely linked and the number of extreme climate events around the world are going to increase so people are going to be exposed to biological and non-biological threats, that's why a resilient health system is very important, she added.

She emphasised on the importance of global collaboration and understanding in dealing with a pandemic.

She also highlighted that countries like India need to focus on disease prevention by curbing air pollution, improving the quality of drinking water and also better sanitation facilities. This she said can be achieved through a multi-sectoral response, with help from community and civil society.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP) needs to be further endorsed in the Indian health care model, she said.

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