Health Resilience: The need for a new approach.
From its emergence in Wuhan in the autumn of 2019, the COVID-19 virus has swept across the globe, testing the strength, adaptability and resilience of the global community, individual nations, cities, neighborhoods, families and individuals.
COVID-19 has revealed that the world was not prepared for a pandemic that we had every reason to anticipate. Yet we neglected to adequately invest in developing and maintaining global health system resilience. Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic should serve as a wake-up call to global leaders every bit as significant – and urgent – as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of more than a decade ago, and the worsening climate emergency of today. They are linked. The pandemic, the GFC, and the climate emergency are all crises of resilience, testing our ability to adapt and thrive.
We need to learn the lessons. Fast. The current crisis is still evolving, and the virus is still mutating. The tragedy in India is a stark reminder of the scale of the ongoing challenge and the need to urgently shape new global partnerships. G7 leaders must commit their nations, the world’s wealthiest, to ensuring that no resource is spared until all communities have access to proper disease surveillance, testing and global vaccination capabilities.
As G7 leaders gather we need to address the following challenges:
The urgent, immediate next stage of controlling the ‘3rd wave’ surge of the Delta variant now sweeping through South and East Asia. In this pandemic, no country is safe until every country is safe. Global leaders of the richest nations at the G7 and G20 need to act with urgency to tackle the problems of global vaccine availability; remove barriers to vaccine compliance; and support appropriate use of Vaccine Passports, adequate quarantining and better private-public partnerships for disease surveillance and data sharing.
The important lessons for future pandemic preparedness. Too much of the ‘pandemic preparedness’ agenda assumes that pandemics are rare, ‘one in a hundred year’ events and that the development of a vaccine alone is enough to end the crisis. It is not and it is dangerous to assume otherwise. We need a global architecture for universal access to vaccines. The pace of globalization in recent years has led to a number of serious infectious disease threats – SARS, Ebola, Zika – which have not become pandemics. COVID-19 has led to the first time that our now globalized economy and society have been confronted with the same pandemic at the same time. Our world is more connected than ever, a virus can spread at the speed of a jet airplane, and just as we can compare national responses in a way not seen before, so we can expect that this type of global health emergency will become the new normal.
The vital longer-term lesson of the coronavirus pandemic as a wake-up call for serious strengthening of global institutional commitment to health economic resilience: recognizing that the pace of globalization and climate change is increasing the risk of phytosanitary and respiratory disease outbreaks.
This independent Commission brings together experts from across the fields of health and life sciences, business, finance, and global political leadership at the highest level, to help inform the 2021 policy ‘reset’ that the current pandemic has rightly triggered. This Interim Report outlines:
Our work over the last 9 months
Our Key Findings
Our Specific Recommendations
Our plans for developing practical policy tools to help governments, cities, and companies ensure GDP growth delivers population health and enhanced economic resilience.
As G7 leaders gather, they need to recognize that none of us are safe until all of us are safe.
We are making a number of specific recommendations in three key areas:
Urgent prioritisation of global distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses. At present, COVAX is the only truly multilateral effort for global vaccination against COVID-19. There are billions of doses available in the world, but we need urgent co-operation across sectors, including public and private, to get them to the countries and communities most in need.
Urgent prioritization of developing and above all sustaining over time multilateral engagement in global disease surveillance infrastructure, workforce and programmes to identify and address new and reemerging disease threats.
Serious structural commitment to rebuilding economic, health and social systems that are resilient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable.
Long Term Resilience by Design
Just as the GFC revealed a systemic weakness in the global financial system – and triggered important work by the OECD, IMF, and the World Bank to address it – so COVID-19 has revealed systemic weaknesses in both global and national health and economic resilience.
Tackling these structural weaknesses exposed by the pandemic must be central to our post-COVID-19 policy reset.
We need to make this a ‘Bretton Woods’ moment for global health.
As global leaders emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must seize the opportunity to learn the lessons and make this crisis a catalyst for serious reforms. Reforms both for improving the health resilience of economies – but also for looking more deeply at the issue of ‘healthier growth’ alongside cleaner growth.
Cleaner growth and healthier growth go together. Many of the changes to our traditional economic model required to deliver decarbonization are the same changes required to tackle some population health issues – notably the cardio-metabolic-respiratory chronic disease problems related to obesity. Greener cities are cooler, and they encourage walking, cycling, and mass transit instead of driving cars. All of the climate-conscious changes to our built environment will also support a healthier lifestyle.
These priorities are not just the responsibility of governments. Business is, more than ever, taking the lead in the battle to cut emissions and slow the pace of global warming. Thus, in this campaign for a healthier and more resilient world, we will need to harness the innovation and entrepreneurship of the private sector. Broad, multisectoral coalitions will be the way to tackle the current and future challenges posed by pandemics, noncommunicable diseases, climate change and obesity, among others.
This won’t just happen. It needs leadership – from those in government, business and the science of healthier and cleaner growth.
This Commission has been created to help shape the new models, metrics and practical policy reforms to help leaders - in the public and private sectors – deliver the changes needed for healthier growth. Through our ongoing work with the OECD, G20, World Economic Forum, Cambridge Public Health, our global network of hubs and academic partners, and the other initiatives in this post-pandemic policy ‘reset,’ we look forward to setting out our Final Recommendations at our summit in November.
José Manuel Barroso, Malcolm Turnbull, Michelle A. Williams