By Kuhel Faizul Islam

This unanticipated COVID-19 crisis reminds us that we are truly a global community! it is also interesting to note that, for all of the wrong reasons, global health has become more equitable. For the first time in decades, millions of us are facing exactly the same health worries of the early 20th century. The Great Influenza Pandemic, popularly called “Spanish flu” presents a credible worst-case scenario for today’s COVID-19 outbreak! The pandemic, which lasted from 1918–20, caused millions of deaths. At this point, the probability that COVID-19 reaches anything close to 1918–20’s outbreak seems remote, given epidemiological differences, advances in public health, and mitigating policies at play, but lessons we can learn from it can help manage the effects of today’s coronavirus pandemic more effectively in terms of macroeconomics and finance. Beyond contagion and deaths, the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to global financial volatility and retrenchment of economic activity posing a greater threat to smaller and developing economies which may take many years to recover from this pandemic shock.

The global scientific community are relentlessly working to break the Epidemiologic Triangle, a traditional model of infectious disease causation. Extending cooperation across, many of the greatest minds are now working on this crisis — through the frontline delivery of care at grassroots level, influencing funding, mass public awareness, working on vaccines, treatment, and other services to decrease loss of lives.

For many diseases that the society contributes to, the health challenges for affected populations are immense, especially for some developing countries where health systems are fragile and the economic hardships for the affected and their families are even longer-term and devastating, driving families into cycle of poverty.

Photo: China Daily

In this age of globalization, it is known to us that diseases do not remain within borders, neither do populations, as a result of travel/migration, climate change and conflict. These changes have ushered in new challenges to managing infectious diseases and other health issues. We must remember the scientific, social and cultural learning from this period, those that have helped us tackle this crisis and also those which may be of future value will help lead us to future discoveries. We should capture these in a movement of collective action, globally and locally.

This is the testing time for all of us and should do what we can within our capacities to extend support and cooperation locally and globally. As individuals we have a new shared experience that we should learn from in new ways. It is the perfect time to consider whether the international and national health frameworks are feasible and helpful for the global population. It is high time that we revisit whether there is adequate investment in preparedness and health system strengthening.

Kuhel Faizul Islam is a Senior Coordinator at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University.

BRAC JPG School of Public Health, Bangladesh tackles global health challenges affecting disadvantaged communities through Education Training Research & Advocacy