Public Health Emergency in Post Covid era

Re-emerging diseases during the Covid19 era

COVID-19 pandemic has become a global health concern affecting essential services in different ways and magnitudes along with revealing loopholes in existing public health systems. The pandemic highlighted the need for better governance, stronger health systems, well-equipped infrastructure and diagnostic capacities. 

Post Covid era

New health priorities, global platforms, agendas, and approaches; more investment in research and technology to meet the demand for new vaccines and medicines; more respect and remuneration to health professionals and normalization of public health measures that were induced during the COVID-19 pandemic need to be maintained in the future. Health workforce plays a crucial role in managing public health emergencies as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. More efforts and policies have to be made to build better capacities and provide a motivating working environment. Policies and strategies that directly or indirectly affect public health might need to be revised and updated. More holistic, comprehensive approaches and strategic interventions; stronger intergovernmental networking and coordination platform among stakeholders; better multilateral agenda and global health initiatives are necessary.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the extent of emergency response and limits of the healthcare system in many countries. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for better governance, more resilient health systems and stronger capacities. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the importance of collaborative and coordinated efforts among countries and stakeholders towards different multilateral and global initiatives. The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to transform and accelerate the implementation and adoption of changes in delivery of public health services and interventions. Various public health and social measures applied by many countries can control and prevent the spread and transmission of diseases. More efforts will be needed to encourage research to provide evidence-based solutions and enhance the use of technology to support policy development and decision making processes. 

Collaborative efforts

Collaborative and coordinated efforts and interventions, discussion and idea sharing on the future of public health post COVID-19 at the regional, national, and global level needs to be the objective among various stakeholders and countries. Collaboration between public health professionals, healthcare communities, educational institutions, sub-national management, NGOs (non-governmental organization), transport and security agencies and various ministries is expected to continue in the future. Many agencies and organisations have been involved in providing better response and control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the right time to consider better coordination and collaboration needed among various sectors that are involved in health interventions along with shifting the paradigm towards public health and preventive medicine. 

The private sector, civil societies and NGOs at regional and local level have played a fundamental role in fighting against COVID-19. The private sector has contributed towards the provision of innovative solutions and equipment, treatment, vaccines and many other aspects. The private sector has addressed COVID-19 in a myriad of ways like investing directly in primary health care (PHC); raising funds and supporting national response; protecting employees and communities; leveraging manufacturing capabilities, communications, supply of health commodities and personal protective equipment. WHO (World health organization) and various UN agencies continue to provide technical and logistic support to countries. WHO has played a major role in developing and disseminating various tools and protocols necessary for COVID-19 surveillance, case definition, planning, isolation, testing, quarantine, protection, and treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has improved the approach of WHO to plan, prepare and respond more efficiently to similar events in terms of governance, support mechanism systems and International Health Regulations.

Healthcare system

Disease surveillance is the backbone of any epidemic and pandemic response which provides information about the sections of the population at risk and helps develop targeted interventions to control the spread of various diseases within the population. Global spread of SARS-CoV-2 highlighted the need for reliable and comprehensive surveillance systems for infectious diseases. The pandemic has enforced use of innovative ideas, approaches, and tools to strengthen surveillance capacities; much-needed funds injected by the governments into the health system; expand investment and automated contact tracing services; develop new rapid tests including immunity testing for antibodies. The goal remains to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 and provide healthcare services to all patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has compromised the delivery of essential health services which can be amended by achieving behavioural changes, information sharing, expanding public health measures, protecting health workers, ensuring continuity of essential health services, and establishing reliable supply chains in and between various countries. 

Health systems can collapse as seen during covid-19 due to a lack of the required competencies or exhaustion of the working staff.  To meet this increasing demand, Council for Public Health Education has specified the need for specialized training programs as part of professional development to ensure readiness for challenges in future. The main areas targeted should be on medical and technological research; to provide evidence-based solutions and support policy making; to meet increased demand and maintain focus on vital preventative work; to promote innovative ideas that accelerate the production of diagnostic kits and equipment, vaccines and treatments. Significant portion of health services post COVID-19 will continue in telehealth-based form with remote monitoring and management of patients which provides better patient-centered care and addresses the healthcare system flow rate and capacity challenges. The health systems will be expected to focus on sustainable delivery of essential services, manufacture of health commodities and strengthening supply chains which can be achieved by significant increase in investment in emergency preparedness and responsiveness. 

Emergency management system

Building a public health emergency response system is needed to scientifically regulate the handling of public health emergencies which can be achieved by establishing an efficient and mature health emergency management system. The overall success or failure of emergency response depends on adequate emergency medical supplies stored by health administration departments or hospitals, the efficiency of on-site emergency response and the proportion of casualties resulting in economic losses. The joint prevention and control mechanism can ensure regular supply of reagent test kits, medical equipment, and medicines to safeguard local, regional, national and global public health security. Establishing an emergency medical supplies system can improve the ability to respond to public health emergencies. This can guarantee to improve the comprehensive level of emergency management and response, build a modernized management system and effectively manage infectious disease outbreaks in the future.

The only silver lining associated with post-COVID-19 era is the realization that healthcare activities and delivery of services can be improved by technologically empowered approaches. Conducting mass screening at the community level for better understanding and management of the pandemic should be the next step followed with more efforts made to develop and update the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan. Hospitals in most countries were overwhelmed and could not cope with the pandemic, rethinking the role of hospitals, health centres and other medical institutes as hubs for healthcare services is required. Community welfare, public and statutory mental health services will need to be resourced to support patient recovery and resilience. Laboratories and diagnostic capacities play a vital role in protecting public health from emerging threats which need to be efficiently maintained.

Online Course 

James Lind Institute (JLI) provides online programs in public health. 

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