We must start taking steps such as ensuring universal high-quality health care if we want to be prepared for the next pandemic, says Gino Zhang
The war between humans and viruses has been fought for centuries and will continue into the future. While vaccines might help end the current pandemic, this is not a long-term solution for future viruses. There are many problems that must be addressed now in order for the world to be prepared for the next pandemic.
Improving Healthcare Facilities To Tackle the next pandemic
First, the quality of health services, a fundamental element of universal health coverage, is critical to prevent pandemics. Poor-quality health care makes it easier for hospitalized patients to acquire an infection and contributes to the high mortality of numerous diseases. Additionally, poor-quality health care increases the economic and social costs of patient harm by causing long-term disability, impairment and lost productivity.
As reported in the article “A Global Imperative for Universal Health Coverage,” more than 10% of hospital expenditure goes to correcting preventable medical mistakes or treating infections that people catch in hospitals. Moreover, poor-quality health care is not only harmful to individuals but also deepens the poverty of low-income countries.
Access to Sanitation
In addition to poor-health care, lack of adequate sanitation also has a strong impact in the face of a pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, about 827,000 people in low-income countries die as a result of poor sanitation each year. Inadequate sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. People suffering from these diseases are more likely to die in a pandemic.
Unfortunately, sanitation all over the world is often inadequate. Two billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines. Of these, 673 million people still defecate in the open in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water. This serious problem must be addressed before the next pandemic.
In today’s situation, India serves as a perfect example of the dangers caused by poor sanitation. According to The New York Times, the confirmed cases of coronavirus in India is over 12 million. Poor sanitation directly contributes to this horrifying statistic.
The role of the citizen
Although solving the problems above requires government action, this does not mean that the prevention and control of the pandemic have nothing to do with citizens, who play an important role in that process as well. During a pandemic, religion is always the solace of first resort for billions of people. But religious believers all over the world are contradicting the warnings of public health authorities. In some cases, religious fervor has led people towards cures that have no grounding in science. Therefore, some people have unknowingly spread the virus in the name of piety. While I am not denying the positive impacts of religion, it is important that we all act more rationally in the face of a pandemic.
Today’s outbreak of coronavirus is just a part of the continuing fight between humans and viruses, but the lesson we learn from this pandemic about resolving today’s critical global problems can help us more successfully fight the next one.