Investing $5 Per Person Each Year Could Prevent Future Pandemics: Former WHO Chief
Strengthening global health infrastructure is an investment in the future.
A new report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) evaluated the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and warned that the world cannot afford to be unprepared if another pandemic hits.
The report, published Monday, called on world leaders to take five urgent actions to be better prepared for future health emergencies, including sustained investment in global health security, health infrastructure, and prevention and preparedness efforts.
In response to COVID-19, the world has spent $11 trillion and is expected to lose an additional $10 trillion in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report found.
"It would take 500 years to spend as much on investing in preparedness as the world is losing due to COVID-19," the report states.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, co-chair of the GPMB and former World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, said it would take as little as an additional $5 per person annually over the next five years to develop strong and agile global health systems, according to the Guardian.
"The return on investment in pandemic preparedness is immense," Brundtland said at a virtual event announcing the report. "Estimates of the cost of prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, but the cost of a pandemic is measured in trillions."
The GPMB is an independent body co-convened by the WHO and the World Bank and launched in 2018, with the mandate to make informed and comprehensive suggestions to policymakers to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks and other health emergencies.
"In short, the work of the GPMB will be to chart a roadmap for a safer world," its website states.
The GPMB's latest report urges the UN, the WHO, and international financial institutions like the World Bank to convene a summit on the importance of global health and investing in health infrastructure.
The GPMB also called for the equal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and suggested that each country should have enough vaccines for at least 2% of their population.
"Here we say that every country should have a 2% coverage because that would cover health personnel and those who are very vulnerable," Brundtland explained.
She also emphasized how if the vaccine is only used in rich countries, it will continue to spread throughout poorer countries and will inevitably be reintroduced to the world.
Current WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the importance of strengthening global health infrastructure at the virtual event.
"Spending on health and preparedness is not charity," he said. "It is an investment in our future."