Political Intrusions into the International Health Regulations Treaty and Its Impact on Management of Rapidly Emerging Zoonotic Pandemics: What History Tells Us

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

For a large number of health care providers world-wide, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is their first experience in population-based care. In past decades, lower population densities, infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics were rare and driven almost exclusively by natural disasters, predatory animals, and war. In the early 1900s, Sir William Osler first advanced the knowledge of zoonotic diseases that are spread from reservoir animals to human animals. Once rare, they now make up 71% or more of new diseases. Globally, zoonotic spread occurs for many reasons. Because the human population has grown in numbers and density, the spread of these diseases accelerated though rapid unsustainable urbanization, biodiversity loss, and climate change. Furthermore, they are exacerbated by an increasing number of vulnerable populations suffering from chronic deficiencies in food, water, and energy. The World Health Organization (WHO) and its International Health Regulation (IHR) Treaty, organized to manage population-based diseases such as Influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), HIV, and Ebola, have failed to meet population-based expectations. In part, this is due to influence from powerful political donors, which has become most evident in the current COVID-19 pandemic. The global community can no longer tolerate an ineffectual and passive international response system, nor tolerate the self-serving political interference that authoritarian regimes and others have exercised over the WHO. In a highly integrated globalized world, both the WHO with its IHR Treaty have the potential to become one of the most effective mechanisms for crisis response and risk reduction world-wide. Practitioners and health decision-makers must break their silence and advocate for a stronger treaty, a return of the WHO's singular global authority, and support highly coordinated population-based management. As Osler recognized, his concept of one medicine, one health defines what global public health is today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-430
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and disaster medicine
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Keywords

  • Sir William Osler
  • World Health Organization
  • coronavirus
  • global public health
  • globalization
  • pandemics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency

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