Forum: Academics must contribute to improving real world outcomes, Forum News & Top Stories

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I refer to the article “Nations dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic: Report” (Dec 10).

While I applaud the authors’ efforts in highlighting the world’s lack of preparedness despite the current Covid-19 pandemic, I am concerned about the downplaying of the critical roles of governance, trust and effective government responses.

In particular, a comment by one of the lead authors of the 2021 Global Health Security Index report – “Just because it exists on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to function” – and the design of the index, which captures only the tools and resources available to governments but does not evaluate how effectively the resources would be used, are worrying.

That the United States – with around 800,000 deaths and a vaccination rate of only about 60 per cent – is ranked highest globally signals that the rankings are not intended to bear any resemblance to the real-world response.

This is the prerogative of the authors but I fear highly ranked countries will be lulled into complacency when public health academics provide this kind of “reassurance”.

This may then inadvertently contribute to government hubris and militate against the decisive actions every country, and in particular those that have seen their health systems overwhelmed, must undertake to ready themselves for the next pandemic.

“The operation was a success but the patient died” is a morbid saying that comes to mind here.

Academics are often criticised for living in ivory towers. Our work must contribute tangibly to improving decisions and outcomes in the real world; otherwise, we risk erosion of public trust in scientific expertise.

Jeremy Lim (Associate Professor)

Director

Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation