By Dr. Hafizullah
The ongoing grim situation of COVID-19 pandemic, especially, the latest third wave of pandemic in South American and south East Asian countries needs special attention. The concept of public health inspector is not new but the current situation of COVID-19 Pandemic has raised the bar for public health thinkers for future situations of populace. Therefore, being a doctor and public health technical expert for the last 10 years working in my home country, I have experienced that there is now an utmost need of a squad we can call them Public Health Inspectors/Experts/Surveillance Inspectors to deal with such extreme importance of public health issues.
It is foolish to imagine that with the development of vaccines in the world the current grey situation will vanish, not for the foreseeable future, at least. We need to think for all the humanity and it’s the need of the time that all the healthcare professionals and especially, public health experts, to think and re-examine the past decades and public health crisis like the Spanish flue etc., learn from it and asses the current Pandemic situation. This time we probably need a Hubble telescopic eye for the future public health system to save this planet from dooms day situation.
Therefore, being a public health opinion maker I would suggest that for the developing countries in near future we need the concept of public health inspectors or surveillance experts who are the dedicated healthcare professionals contributing for the community level pandemic readiness/resources, responses and in-built plans which can be applicable for the local level societies to easily implement in case of public health emergencies without waiting for the outside resources, utilizing local intellect and capitals.
In third world countries, with pre dominant dogmatic budgets, limited resources and finances for health sector, new ideas to cope with such situations would be needed and the concept of public health inspectors will toss the coin towards the safer side, if we are looking for quick and possible feasible solutions for low income countries.
The slogan of global health security risk and measures, has never been echoed so loud as in this point in time of history. Therefore, before the next perfect storm of pandemic can hit the globe these local level public health security measures can strengthen the health systems at local level through community awareness and participation. The medical measures at hospital level has equal importance but with current resources in the existing health systems, it is over burdened with the patients at health facility level, so health experts and especially public health intelligentsia is proposing and looking after the out of box solutions in different regions of the world. Therefore, the concept of public health inspector/ watchdogs would be beneficial for the state owned health systems in assisting other health authorities and public health agencies to better cope with the pandemics in the current scope and in future level policy implementation agendas. It is about minimizing the collective damage from public health incidents that can jeopardize lives across borders, if not contained, as they are also a threat to the economic prosperity and national security.
So, in these testing times the integration of such public health experts and collaborators would ease down the burden of public health emergency in a much coordinated way at national level and provincial level. Transformation of health systems according to the needs of the time, with problem solving approach we have to chalk out solutions for the future. Thus, the health systems especially in low income countries need public health cadre to implement future policy directions regarding public health emergencies like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea of public health inspectors and the current ongoing situation demands that the public health thinkers should prioritize future needs of health system, as there is no current modelling of statistical data being done on provincial or national level regarding on going pandemic cost in terms of economic and social cost.
So, the future of health systems depends on the creative thinking abilities of the public health experts in the region and countries to give out their governments possible best solutions to safe guard health of public and thus decrease the burden of disease and economic and social cost of nation.
Last but not the least, while contingency plans devised by the national and provincial disaster management agencies for natural calamities exist, the country does not have a coordinated and publicized national public health emergency plan or dedicated funding lines in the federal and provincial budgets for health emergencies. In the 10 years since devolution, it is still unclear as to who will lead and fund health emergency preparedness, with the provinces left to their own decisions and relying on their own pockets and the interest of their chief ministers. Flexible contingent financing for health ministries for emergency situations through domestic budgets, as well as global risk financing, is critical to allow a quick response to disease outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.
Pakistan has produced a number of epidemiologists trained to track and investigate infections, but none are found leading the charge at health ministries to guide the response of health taskforces. In the current situation on the top level of government, more is being heard from the side which has no scientific background and experience in the field. It will be a critical act for policymakers harmonizing between the present and preparing for the future.
‘The writer is a Health Systems Specialist and a public health opinionmaker, working at the Department of Health, GB.’