By Johonniuss Chemweno, CEO | VIP StarNETWORK, LLC
COVID-19 has become the greatest threat to global public health and economies in the 21st century. More than 219 million people have been infected, and over 4.5 million have died worldwide. The impact of COVID-19 on health challenges is dominant. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the U.S., its effects on the U.S. health system are severe: direct and indirect medical costs have reached hundreds of billions of dollars.
The pandemic has highlighted various factors that caused a potential increase in health spending. According to The American Hospital Association, fragmented healthcare delivery systems, complicated billing and reimbursement, a wide range of insurance plans, and variable policy priorities are significant challenges healthcare systems have to face.
How can COVID-19 help nations improve health and economic growth?
COVID-19 has demonstrated that inequity is bad for global health. It has hit society’s most vulnerable people and areas. Health inequities have become a prevalent global issue. Citizens globally are expressing more anger and intolerance at enduring health, social, and economic injustices. Experts in public health noted the general challenges the underserved face: rising unemployment, low income, lack of housing, the nonexistence of disease prevention, and lack of healthcare access. Consequently, the structural inequities within the global health system have caused health disparities. The international response to COVID-19 has reinforced these injustices; health experts believe reorientation of health services and building public health policy will enable societies to make healthier choices and lead to the future growth and development of global health promotion.
Health inequity remains at the top of the agenda, even after COVID-19. The pandemic has caused long-standing pressures on healthcare systems. For instance, hospitals were overcrowded and lacked primary care during pre-COVID times. As the population has increased, the pressure on the healthcare infrastructure requires renewal and modification to ensure that hospitals can rapidly escalate capacity when another pandemic emerges in the future.
COVID-19 has worked as a ‘stress test’ for global health systems. Some resilient health systems have responded effectively to the pandemic, while many others have not. For instance, the productive performance of East Asian countries has indicated that they have learned from past outbreaks on how to stay resilient and make effective solutions that offer a model for how health security must be prioritized in the post-COVID-19 era. The model includes building resilience to the next crisis, thinking seriously about the future (including the country’s development and growth model), and designing an active fiscal policy strategy to overcome health discrepancies.
The dysfunctional performance of a few high-income nations illustrates the dangers of under-investing in public health systems to cope with health crises of this scale. Equitable access to vaccines is essential. Developing safe and effective vaccines single-handedly cannot end the pandemic. Those vaccines must be delivered globally at a price affordable to all governments and allocated in a way that maximizes public health impact and achieves equity. The providence of vaccines to various countries highlights the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility’s (COVAX) role in encouraging high-income nations to expand global vaccine supply and delivery while also generating other positive outcomes.
Achieving rapid pandemic control requires decisive leadership and collaboration for COVID-19 responses at global, national, and local levels. Global health diplomacy must play a crucial part in encouraging governments and non-state actors to accelerate their progress and enact innovative and just policy solutions. Every country needs to play its role; therefore, we need more effective approaches and reforms at the global level. In particular, the International Health Regulations, which govern all countries to have core health system capacities to detect future pandemics, need to be revitalized. More effective rules are also required to foster cooperation among countries seeking to manage future outbreaks.
These innovative policy strategies should prompt the United Nations and other international organizations to take appropriate actions to prevent future calamities and catastrophes. A well-funded WHO is also essential to effective global health governance and offers a model for global collaboration. The WHO has a critical role in supporting all countries to prioritize universal health systems for improving people’s health. Initiate ways to fight against future pandemics, and reap marked economic dividends.
The pandemic has revealed that prevention can help countries to stay out of trouble. Some medical experts stated that they could have detected COVID-19 early, as they firmly understood that prevention could reduce the spread of pandemics. The severity of COVID-19 is linked to environmental and health factors, such as poor air quality and obesity, both of which can be avoided. COVID-19 has become a global disease; having preventative measures can reduce the spread of this disease by70 percent. Moreover, it will cost less than $100 per healthy life saved and sustained.
Governance systems and policies to eradicate the epidemic
· Governance systems that are inclusive, accountable, and guided by strategic approaches prioritize transparent decision-making processes. All nations are needed to respond and follow innovative and holistic approaches urgently. Such methods should be based on cross-sectoral collaboration at all levels of society and can build the necessary resilience to respond to the immediate and long-term effects of COVID-19.
· Healthcare data systems should be upgraded. The pandemic has emphasized the importance of leveraging data about people’s incomes, housing, and other things to help vulnerable communities. To improve patient care, we can share health care information through different apps and software. Using standard data formats will help health professionals and patients to communicate with one another. A cost-effective and robust backend infrastructure can handle the amount of necessary data securely and safely.
· The role of technology in the COVID-19 pandemic included developing a platform to increase healthcare access. Some healthcare systems have adopted virtual and digital health solutions that provide up-to-date information about the outbreak of an epidemic and provide awareness to prevent and control it. With more technological advancement, the future will provide more improved digital healthcare.
· The private sector is manufacturing healthcare equipment such as ventilators and other essential technology. Medical supplies of medicines, vaccines, masks, and other preventive materials can be provided to vulnerable communities. These medical aids and equipment can measure the outcomes, effectiveness, and equitability of healthcare.
The world is unprepared to meet future pandemics, as many countries lack disaster equipment and preventive measures. Moreover, people lack awareness of how to deal with future pandemics. Therefore, governments should take a holistic view to protect their people; prepare structured plans for health, social, and environmental crises; and integrate them with policymaking, infrastructure, and technology. Hence, the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes that no country can fight alone and respond to health threats. In a globalized world, all countries need to collaborate and develop core health system capacities to detect future pandemics.
Moreover, countries need to foster cooperation with each other to seek solutions to manage future outbreaks. The COVID-19 crisis has created a unique opportunity to transform global health so that future pandemics should not cause a devastating impact on the health system. By generating new knowledge and innovation, health professionals play an essential part in modernizing national health systems to provide quality health care and outcomes.
Johonniuss Chemweno is CEO of VIP StarNetwork, LLC, which is revolutionizing how industries offer healthcare benefits and increase healthcare access. VIP StarNetwork recently launched its mobile app, Access Health, to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, especially to lower-income communities.