Saturday, April 17, 2021

Healthy steps

Apart from the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19, there are also lessons for us to learn to face similar challenges with better planning. In recent months there has been an urgent call to deal with unpredicted disasters like Covid-19 which has caused havoc all over the world. We are still lacking basic infrastructure health facilities. Keeping in mind the growing population and sophisticated lifestyle, the world needs to understand the importance of a sound health system that could help member countries to face upcoming pandemics with more vigor and intensity. We are aware that there is a dearth of medical facilities both in urban and rural areas. Even in urban cities medical capacity has usually been taken for granted. Even the scenario of health capacity in rich countries is also not up to the mark to treat people when there is mass scale infection in the population. Most important sector that needs quick relook to enhance capacity building of medical facilities includes infrastructure and manpower. For example, there was paucity of ventilators and other equipment in our hospitals required to meet the challenge of growing critical patients. This is the first thing that needs immediate attention in order to develop capacities in our hospitals to meet the challenge. Lack of available manpower (practicing medical professionals) also hinders medical treatment because these professionals act as warriors during pandemics. We are blessed with a large number of qualified and capable medical professionals whose expertise needs to be tapped to tackle medical crisis. In fact there is an urgent realization that we need to have reserve qualified medical personnel ready during medical emergencies. Another important lesson for researchers and health professionals is to find innovative diagnostic tools that will enable us to find infections before they spread. The poor diagnostic tools to detect Covid-19 in the beginning of the pandemic were major problem to contain the virus from spreading across borders. Even today we do not have an effective testing procedure which is highly specific for diagnosis of Covid-19. Researchers have recently suggested smarter lung scans and screening blood samples for better testing of Covid-19 patients. The important message from the current pandemic is that there is dearth of research on emerging diseases. The worrying factor about these diseases is that we have scanty knowledge about their epidemiology and emergence. Collaborative global research on emerging diseases with international funding is needed to kick start our efforts against deadly diseases. We need innovative research and systematic monitoring programmes to obtain first-hand information about patterns of these diseases. Another thing is that our society still believes in centuries old myths that do not help medical professionals to convince the general public about the general benefits of hygiene. However, the Covid-19 crisis has been a big opportunity for the general public to learn that hygiene helps. Recent research shows that maintenance of proper hygiene played an important role in many developed countries to prevent the mass scale spread of corona virus. Societal awareness on social media has taught people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. This was the first time in history people acknowledged practically the value of washing hands and social distancing. Furthermore, the general public followed the health advisory and SOPs that were given by health authorities from time to time. The important take away from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we need to maintain general hygiene at home and at the workplace in order to prevent future Covid-19 like crises. It is human nature to forget the past, and remain complacent. So it becomes the duty of governments to impress upon the people to maintain general hygiene in public interest. Finally, we need to focus on future challenges of similar types of pandemics. Small steps like practicing personal hygiene and social distancing during spread of infectious diseases has a huge outcome on the containment of diseases. At the global level brainstorming sessions are needed for the generation of public awareness with regard to upcoming challenges of infectious diseases and their mitigation. We must understand that medical intervention in the form of vaccines and drugs are short term solutions for these pandemics. We must devise consensus on how to keep ourselves healthy under an infectious environment with least dependence on medicines and vaccines.