Creating a Pandemic-proof Infrastructure

During the last few years, the world saw a crisis that shook every aspect of human life. A crisis that comes once in many decades. Almost every country experienced a complete lockdown at some point in time. Many countries with previously thought-to-be world-class health-care systems have also been tried, pushed to the limit, and in some respects found wanting. The pandemic took all countries by surprise and the discussion on appropriate national and global strategies is very diverse. The COVID-19 epidemic has demonstrated what is at risk, upending the lives of families worldwide. Millions of people have died, and a generation of kids has experienced a learning catastrophe.

The two years of the pandemic highlighted the current inadequacies of our healthcare delivery system and the need for urgent improvisation. The two years have seen us go through harrowing times—patients died for want of hospital beds and oxygen; the ventilator supply ran dry; high infections led to a severe manpower crunch at hospitals; there were not enough vaccines available then. Our healthcare system had crumbled under pressure, and our frontline workers, both in public and private hospitals, had burned themselves out. And now with cases rising, there is fear of a return to the past among healthcare workers.

Although the pandemic has eased, the virus is still alive and mutating and more pandemics are expected to follow. In the wake of this scenario, it is important for the world community to better equip ourselves to tackle such situations in the future. It is the moment that we realise the importance and need to strengthen healthcare infrastructure globally. It is time to work on making a pandemic-proof healthcare system for the future. Below are the areas that need to be focused on:

  • ·         Curative services – there is a need for the expansion of telemedicine from triage, diagnosis, and follow-up services covering all conditions (acute to chronic). Making institutions adapt and become centres of knowledge dissemination- telemedicine and all possibilities of e- and m-health and provide knowledge to people at home, on what symptoms to look out for, where to test, how to self-care, etc for not only Covid-19 but for other conditions too.
  • ·         Improve primary health care – Better primary health care will help us protect against future pandemics. Improving primary health care includes recruiting, training, and prioritising healthcare workers, and establishing effective surveillance and response systems, building confidence in health services through community outreach.
  • ·         Improve logistics and supply – There are a lot of logistics that are needed in a healthcare system. Some examples include masks, gloves, PPEs, disinfectants, etc. Apart from there’s also the supply of syringes and the cold chain storage that’s been necessary to make sure that the vaccines are stored at the proper temperature and don’t go to waste.  Increased investments in this type of infrastructure will assist to guarantee that communities obtain the immunizations they require while also protecting them from future outbreaks.
  • ·         Promotive and preventive healthcare services – The pandemic has demonstrated that having an underlying condition like diabetes, hypertension or obesity predisposes one to complications, long hospital stays, and mortality. Because of all these reasons, COVID-19 has been categorised as a syndemic rather than a pandemic. It is necessary to provide preventive and promotive health services like boosting one’s immune system through diet, exercise, and supplements, in different formats, online, face-to-face, or through home visits.
  • ·         Mental health services – Mental health issues during the pandemic are threatening to become the next pandemic. Stress and mental health issues related to lockdowns affect everyone but tend to affect the weaker segments of society more severely. It is necessary to create awareness about mental health and make mental health services available, accessible, and affordable to all.

It is true that we need to build pandemic-proof health infrastructure. But does Covid-19 expose our health sector only or show us the reality of other aspects also? Working only on health will not be sufficient. We also need to improve our social, educational and political infrastructure. The world saw a huge dropout of students because of online classes during pandemic. Some of the major reasons given for dropping are fairly obvious: technology problems, lack of support, poorly designed courses, and technologically inexperienced educators. This demands due consideration and commitment. The epidemic has impacted numerous nations’ governmental and political systems, resulting in declarations of emergency, suspensions of legislative activity, isolation or death of multiple lawmakers, and postponing of elections owing to worries of viral transmission.Furthermore, in certain areas, the epidemic has posed various problems to democracy, causing it to be weakened and harmed. Hence, building a pandemic-proof political infrastructure will not only ensure an efficient response to tackle the crisis but also provide basic institutional support to the nation and to the world as a whole.

This is a unique moment where we have an opportunity to learn from this pandemic and prevent others in the future. The legacy of COVID-19 mustn’t be one of disruption and disparity, but instead a moment of monumental change.

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