ECDC Principal Expert for Emergency Preparedness and Response Dr Agoritsa Baka on the need for public health support.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is a European agency operating under the European Commission, with the mandate of increasing Member States’ public health preparedness and providing independent scientific guidance on infectious disease prevention and control. Dr Agorista Baka explores the key challenged facing public health support.
Infectious diseases represent a key challenge in terms of public health. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has seen many issues come up with the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly pertaining to co-ordination: countries need to start taking collective action and working together, rather than adopting the principle of ‘everyone for himself or herself’. Most of all, we need to make sure that everyone – especially the policymakers – understand how important public health is; and that public health is a long term investment. It is not something that can be turned on and turned off. You need to invest in the health sector over the long term in order to have that capacity: it is like an insurance policy, you pay in regularly in order to gain the benefits in an emergency.
We cannot ask an under budget, understaffed public health workforce to solve this pandemic in one month. This is something that we need to think about now in order to maintain a functioning public health workforce for the future. We need highly trained, well equipped public health professionals – and we need to finally have everyone understand that this needs to be a major priority for each country. In the same way that countries pay to support their military, if they want to be prepared to respond to a crisis, they need to have these things ready.
In the background of the pandemic, all the other problems in the infectious disease side of public health – like antimicrobial resistance; vaccine preventable diseases; infections spread through water and food – all these are still ongoing. We are soon going to enter summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that we will see more vector borne diseases, particularly in some Member States. These are ongoing issues; and while the current pandemic is pushing everything else to the side, that does not mean that they have been eliminated: they will be front of us.
Principal Expert for Emergency Preparedness and Response
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
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