Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic – achieving resilience for the next health emergency
A new strategic document was officially presented at the “Lessons learned from COVID-19: getting ready for the next pandemic” event, on 13 September – part of the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (RC71). Within it are outlined 10 major lessons that have so far been identified by Member States in the Region and their partners. This document is intended to enhance national and community resilience against health emergencies and safeguard regional and global health security now and in the future.
Building on the independent reviews set up by the WHO Secretariat related to COVID-19, the document entitled “Response to the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learned to date from the WHO European Region” takes an “all-hazards approach”, recognizing that it is impossible to predict with certainty what hazard will appear next and what its impacts will be. While some responses to COVID-19 may not be applicable in all future crisis scenarios, learning from the pandemic will allow Member States and WHO to prepare their systems and the capacity of societies to better absorb the shocks that future emergencies may bring.
COVID-19 central to discussions at RC71
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt around the world – tragically costing millions of lives while also taking a severe toll on societies and economies. The concrete steps needed to prepare for and protect the Region from future pandemics and health emergencies is a central theme on the agenda of RC71, and is also in focus during discussions on the recommendations of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development.
As Dorit Nitzan, WHO/Europe’s Regional Emergency Director highlighted during the event: “If I could summarize our collective learning from COVID-19 in a sentence, it would be that universal health coverage and preparedness pay off only if they come together. Resilience against health emergencies is the necessary leap we all need to make to protect our people from health emergencies, now and in the future”.
Resilience at the core of the European Programme of Work
During the current pandemic, values such as equity, solidarity and collaboration have been recognized as central to resilience and essential to drive an effective response, based around the concept that “no one is safe until everyone is safe”. Resilience against emergencies is central to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is a core principle of the WHO European Programme of Work 2020–2025 (EPW) – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”.
Tailored support to countries and reinforcing regional preparedness and capacity to respond to emergencies are core priorities of the EPW. These are further strengthened by the EPW flagship initiatives, all of which have been at the forefront during COVID-19: the Mental Health Coalition; Empowerment through Digital Health; the European Immunization Agenda 2030; and Healthier behaviours: incorporating behavioural and cultural insights.
As part of the event, representatives of 6 Member States (Albania, Georgia, Moldova, Serbia, Spain and Turkey) and the European Forum of Medical Associations explained the particular challenges they had faced during the pandemic and what solutions they had found to tackle them as lessons for the future.