Domestic and international governance failures have prolonged the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and needlessly exasperated its human cost, two Georgetown University Medical Center professors found in a recent study.
In “Governance Preparedness: Initial Lessons from COVID-19,” Georgetown professors at the Center for Global Health Science and Security Alexandra Phelan and Rebecca Katz offered recommendations on ways individual countries and the international community at large can improve their pandemic response. These suggestions range from increasing funding for the World Health Organization to reestablishing norms of international cooperation surrounding vaccines, medical supplies and access to public health resources. Phelan and Katz suggested prioritizing a coordinated international response.
Beyond making public health policy recommendations, the report can also inform future research in public health, according to Phelan.
“I hope that this report is read and can inform the review, whether it be the review of the pandemic response, for example, by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response,” Phelan said in an interview with The Hoya. “I hope that our analysis of the governance failures highlights that many of these gaps are because of underfunding and underresourcing and can feed into that.”
Phelan and Katz released “Governance Preparedness: Initial Lessons from COVID-19,” in July to supplement a Sept. 14 report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent board of scholars and medical experts that monitors and advocates global readiness for global health emergencies.
Governmental transparency and clear communication at all levels of a pandemic response will help eliminate the spread of misinformation, which becomes particularly dangerous during a public health crisis, according to Phelan.
“There is a huge wall of misinformation that, if you are simply informing or correcting someone’s understanding of something, one person each day, you are slowly changing the tide,” Phelan said. “And I think it can be exhausting, but it’s not a futile exercise.”
GPMB released a report in 2019 titled “A World at Risk,” which evaluated the world’s ability to contain a pandemic. Prior to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the report recommended governments around the world increase public health funding and streamline treatment systems, among other necessary precautions against a viral outbreak.
“The world is not prepared for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic,” GPMB wrote in the 2019 report.
The following 2020 report, “A World in Disorder,” reinterprets GPMB’s previous findings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and offers concrete policy recommendations.
Now that the report has been published, Phelan hopes it will aid hospitals and researchers continuing to manage and study the COVID-19 response. She stressed the importance of having a diverse range of perspectives in informing a comprehensive public health response.
“This pandemic has demonstrated how multidisciplinary expertise and having people from all the different areas of expertise is really important,” Phelan said. “I think where we see the most effective responses to the pandemic is where those different views and the diversity of views, not just in diversity of expertise, but in diversity of experiences, of abilities, of race and ethnicity and gender, I think that that diversity makes for a response that is better tailored for the realities of our diverse society.”