A recent survey published in the Journal Lancet blames West Africa’s political class and its lack of commitment for the country’s new crisis and how it may affect global health security.
Opinion essays written by renowned health practitioners show that uncertain political conditions in West Africa are the root cause of a poor health system that does not match global standards.
The authors have examined people’s access to healthcare, how the outbreak may enhance political commitment to improve health security, and the relevance of issues like antimicrobial resistance in health security.
Lead author, David L. Heymann, a professor from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London defines “health security” as protection from various threats to health.
According to their findings, factors that have an impact on global health security include demoralized health workers, falsified or substandard medicine, armed conflict, natural disasters and last but not least, patterns of immigration.
Margaret Kruk, MD, MPH, from the Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T. H., talked to Medscape Medical News about phenomenon called “absence of resilience”, explaining that professionals often have trouble admitting a crisis in one region of the world is a crisis that the entire world is facing.
She went on to say that despite most countries signing off on the implementation of International Health Regulations, guidelines and instructions meant to help health workers detect and treat disease outbreaks properly and in good time, many of these countries, especially the poor ones, have not implemented them. She also noted that authorities typically credit late detection of the disease as the cause of the outbreak.
The effects of the environment could easily be seen on healthcare professionals in West Africa. They were often demoralized and unmotivated to come to work due to their paychecks being delayed by months, and not being provided with the proper cure and equipment to deal with the outbreak effectively.
Kruk says governments need to invest in training the right number and categories of workers, offer them the support they need and pay them on time, if we are to avoid future outbreaks. They also have to take the implementation of nonemergency care (such as vaccinations) seriously to further reduce the chance of future outbreaks.
Professor Heymann makes an important observation on the difference between collective health security and individual health security. During the crisis, infected workers from well developed countries were brought back to said countries to get proper and effective treatment. West Africans however were not shown the same level of care.
Heymann empathizes that for global health security to work, individuals across the globe have to be granted access to quality health products and services.
He reminds readers that over the past decade both Washington DC, the most influential city affecting global health today, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have not given global security the importance it deserves, with one senior US State Department official even claiming that it might be because the WHO has been overwhelmed by Ebola.
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