Rethinking Our Approach to Global Health in a Post COVID-19 World

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A disease that has seemingly paused the lives of us all, and unfortunately claimed the lives of many others, the burden of COVID-19 has been globally experienced. No country has remained untouched by the devastating grip of COVID-19, but with every country possessing differing levels of scientific expertise, equipment and policy implementation, the question of which control method is the most effective remains uncertain and unproved. How then do we move forward in terms of global health if every country seems to be battling the same fight but with different means? Behavioural change is a universal method adopted in this ongoing battle, and its importance in the control of other diseases has been proved. Behavioural change is a method that unites us all against COVID-19, and its focus will likely strengthen and join us in a post COVID-19 world.

New terms such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve’ have entered our everyday vocabulary. It is important to distinguish between terms such as ‘quarantine’ and ‘isolation’, as our understanding determines our actions. We are all having to adjust our thinking and the way we interact with others. Behavioural and mental change are intrinsically linked, and they both must be aligned in our adoption of change in a post COVID-19 world. We are all constantly having to alter our behaviour in this new reality. We are aware of the need to socially distance and wash our hands; this is our personal contribution in keeping ourselves and others safe. It may seem like a mundane activity, but these repetitious activities can stop transmission and save lives. Whatever country you reside in, and its medical limitations, this activity remains equally as critical as one of the main preventative measures for the control of COVID-19.

Behavioural change for controlling disease may seem new to us in the UK and other high-income countries, but in fact its importance has been recognised in the control of other diseases commonly affecting people in lower-income countries. Soil-transmitted helminths, such as hookworm and whipworm, are intestinal worms transmitted to humans through egg-contaminated soil. These infections are neglected tropical diseases that cause ongoing disability and suffering yet can be controlled through improved sanitation and hygiene. Washing hands after using the toilets and before preparing food can reduce the risk of egg ingestion, and thus decrease infection risk. This control method has been adopted for a long time, and its success relies heavily on people’s understanding of why they must adapt their behaviour. This concept of understanding is the same for COVID-19.

‘Normal’ activities, such as shaking or holding hands now present a risk to us all. We need an understanding of why we must change our behaviour; it has never been more vital for transparency between the scientific communities and the general public. People cannot be expected to change their lifestyles without understanding the good their change contributes. Open access to COVID-19 related science journals is a step in the right direction to widening the understanding of global health and behavioural change. The approach we are taking in this COVID-19 time regards behavioural, mental and health considerations, and the reasoning behind our actions must be understood by everyone. Global health is about connecting everyone on a biological and societal level, both equally as important for change. We are united in our fight against COVID-19, we are all changing the way we act and think to ensure we are contributing to the safety of the community. COVID-19 has taught us that a holistic approach to global health is in line with our own humanity.

2 Replies to “Rethinking Our Approach to Global Health in a Post COVID-19 World”

  1. It will be a strange, fractured world with some countries successfully suppressing Covid, such as Vietnam and New Zealand, many others desperately battling it, and some no longer having to apply social distancing measures, such as the UK in the future and Israel, thanks to vaccines.

    1. That is a very important insight. It will draw attention to, and potentially worsen, inequities in health and medicine. Campaigns such as the Vaccine Equity Declaration called by the World Health Organization, COVAX, and smaller scale initiatives such as Bump It Forward by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are critical.

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