Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published by CUNY SPH.
While significant scientific and medical advances have been made in the fight against COVID-19, the virus remains a major public health threat. The global response has been fraught with challenges such as widespread misinformation about the disease and vaccines, vaccine hesitancy, and inequitable access to treatments and vaccines. Each country has responded differently, and often inadequately, revealing a worrisome lack of coordination and clear goals.
As part of a Delphi study published in Nature, a multidisciplinary panel of 386 academic, health, government, NGO and other experts from 112 countries and territories put forth specific actions recommended to develop a global consensus on how to address the issues hindering efforts to put an end to the global threat of COVID-19.
The 57 recommendations encompass six major areas to address this public health threat: communications, health systems, vaccination, prevention, treatment and care, and inequities. The recommendations are directed at governments, health systems, industry, and other key stakeholders.
The panel, led by CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) Senior Scholar Jeffrey V. Lazarus, unanimously recommends a comprehensive and collaborative “whole-of-society” and “whole-of-government” approach that involves multiple disciplines, sectors and actors to avoid fragmented efforts, and a “vaccines-plus” approach which includes a combination of COVID-19 vaccination, other structural and behavioral prevention measures, treatment, and financial support measures. The panelists also prioritized recommendations for developing technologies (vaccines, therapies and services) that can reach target populations.
The experts emphasize the need for significant efforts to improve health communications, rebuild public trust, combat misinformation, and engage communities directly in the management of this and future public health emergency responses.
“One of the greatest calls to action from the COVID-19 global pandemic, and indeed for our time, is for equitable public health strategies that benefit all of society,” says Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean of CUNY SPH and co-chair of the panel. “This consensus is a bold and necessary milestone in paving a promising path forward.”
“Health policymakers and implementers today are besieged with proposals on ending COVID-19,” says Dr. Lazarus. “With this consensus, we make unique, practical proposals to end COVID-19 as a public health threat now and lay a solid groundwork to address large-scale outbreaks of infectious disease, reducing the burden on society, especially vulnerable populations, over time.”
“In addition to the substantive recommendations put forward, the broad-based international and disciplinary diversity of the panel will be a major positive factor in their adoption throughout the world,” said Dr. Diana Romero, CUNY SPH Professor and the study methodologist and co-author.
A Q&A panel was hosted by University College London on November 7 with Dr. Romero and other core-group coauthors. Watch the stream here.