COVID-19 exposes truth of globalization – wealth does not always equal health

This column is an opinion by Dr. Anca Matei, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Division Head of Surgical procedure at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S. She is pursuing a Grasp’s diploma in International Well being Coverage on the London Faculty of Hygiene and Tropical Medication. For extra details about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The significance of public well being in occasions like this can’t be denied and has by no means been extra compelling. But enterprise, as common, continues to overshadow and undervalue it because the concentrate on bolstering the economic system intensifies.

Well being and the economic system are intimately intertwined, and the scenario through which we discover ourselves at the moment is a direct consequence of the dance between well being and the economic system over the previous a number of a long time.

The neo-liberal agenda has led us to imagine that financial progress will deliver wellbeing to the lots, however in actuality it has usually merely made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

COVID-19 is a stark reminder that when push involves shove, it isn’t the rich who will pull us by way of. It’s our well being care system: the well being care staff, the hospitals which have lengthy wanted renovations, and the applications which were chronically underfunded.

As a doctor, I’m deeply immersed within the entrance line response to COVID-19. Between preparedness actions, which vary from conferences – with division heads, perioperative, maternal and neonatal well being committees, with nurses, with An infection Management – to simulations, webinars, on-line programs, and affected person care, I go searching and mirror on the bigger implications of what we’re experiencing now.

Well being-care staff placed on protecting tools earlier than getting into a nursing house in early Might. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

This pandemic, like all pandemics earlier than it, will run its course. When it ends, we’re going again to the older epidemics that plague our well being care system: weight problems, diabetes, heart problems, most cancers, social inequalities, and an underfunded public well being care system that always appears to take a again seat to political and financial pursuits.

I am unable to assist however surprise if the COVID-19 pandemic might be a turning level in public well being coverage.

Will this deliver change to the unsatisfying developments in globalization? After the bodily distancing ends, will we have now the braveness, as a era, to face up and demand that sensible, knowledgeable, sensible public well being coverage be mounted on the core of private and non-private financial actions?

In 2003, Samuel Preston gave us the Preston Curve. This confirmed us that life expectancy was immediately proportional to GDP per capita – on common, folks in wealthier nations are likely to dwell longer than these in poorer nations – however solely up to a degree. After a sure GDP stage, life expectancy flattened out.

Preston used life expectancy as an indicator for well being, however after all well being is a lot greater than an individual’s variety of birthdays. Critics of the Preston Curve level to the significance of issues akin to literacy, vitamin, and general public well being. As well as, components akin to social justice, spirituality, and social relationships are all vital to what the World Well being Group (WHO) defines in its structure as not merely the absence of illness, however “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.

The conclusion is obvious: wealth doesn’t equal well being.

COVID-19 is a tragic reminder of this.

Developed nations akin to Italy, France, Spain and the U.S. have been devastated by the extent and loss of life toll of COVID-19. Well being care staff in every single place have suffered excessive an infection charges, and important provides akin to ventilators and private protecting tools have been briefly provide. In Canada, massive and small hospitals alike have been involved about their potential to deal with a surge of COVID-19 sufferers whereas sustaining important providers for the remainder.

What’s the good thing about selling an financial system of monetary elitism if, within the face of a global disaster such because the one we’re in now, long-term care amenities are overcrowded, hospitals don’t have enough area to correctly isolate suspected or confirmed COVID-19 sufferers, and physicians should determine which severely sick affected person has entry to an intensive care unit mattress and which doesn’t?

With out robust public well being coverage on the core of our social and financial methods, wealth is meaningless.

Merchants on the ground of the New York Inventory Change on March 16 watch shares plunge as large swaths of the economic system started to close down as a result of COVID-19 outbreak. (Craig Ruttle/The Related Press)

In a post-pandemic world dealing with the truth of a doable recession, a crucial evaluation of our preparedness, our response, and what it tells about societies will ensue with a vengeance. Will we be glad with the established order of financial progress for the sake of progress, or will we demand financial restoration that additionally allows true well being – that state of full wellbeing that retains eluding us?

Will we demand that authorities investments in financial initiatives additionally translate to investments in our public well being?

Or will we return to the way in which we have been, the place politicians promise us clear air however spend money on pipelines? The place much-needed hospital expansions take a back-seat to bureaucratic processes and personal interests? The place well being care staff are scrutinized, belittled and deemed dishonest – and solely hailed when, already underfunded and burnt out, they present as much as work day by day in the course of a pandemic?

As this disaster unfolds, we should ask ourselves these vital questions.

When it’s previous us, we should ask our political representatives these tough questions and demand solutions previous to casting votes. We’d like a paradigm shift.


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