In a new Position Paper, Preventing the Next Pandemic: The Case for Investing in Circulatory Health, the Global Coalition for Circulatory Health is calling for increased investment in circulatory health in order to prepare for, or even prevent, the next pandemic.
This past year has united us in facing a truly global challenge, but it has also exposed the deep, enduring fault lines and inequities in population health and health systems of nearly every country in the world.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has taken an overwhelming toll on the physical, mental, and fiscal health of our societies, it has had a particularly devastating impact on the millions of people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) around the world. In addition to old age, people living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and hypertension are at greater risk of experiencing the more severe forms of COVID-19 and its consequences, including death.
COVID-19 has also been associated with increased mortality beyond that related to the infection itself and its immediate consequences, as interruptions to care for people living with NCDs have exacerbated their exposure to negative health outcomes. Unsurprisingly, individuals with lower socioeconomic status, in both high and low-income countries, have borne the brunt of the pandemic.
The Global Coalition is calling for increased support for the healthcare workforce, equity in both the global distribution of vaccines and access to care, better use of new and innovative models of care and digital health solutions, and fiscal policies targeting unhealthy commodities to support these investments.
The Position Paper includes a set of recommendations to support governments in their efforts to prepare for future pandemics during this critical time:
- Prevent, screen, and treat for circulatory conditions through national COVID-19 response and recovery plans via concerted patient co-creation and collaboration
- Increase spending and develop targeted policies to tackle CVD and NCD risk factors, including the social and commercial determinants of health, using revenues from fiscal policies (i.e., taxation of unhealthy commodities, such alcohol and tobacco products)
- Include indicators on circulatory disease prevalence, comorbidities, and risk factors into measures of pandemic readiness, resilience, and response
- Ensure people living with circulatory conditions and in low-resource settings have good and equitable access to essential health services, including medicines, supplies and associated devices, through Primary Health Care
- Provide easy priority access to vaccination and other disease prevention methods for those with underlying circulatory risk factors
- Support and integrate the use of effective new models to deliver quality health services, especially telemedicine and initiatives to support self-care and self-empowerment
The world simply cannot wait for the next pandemic to invest in NCDs. Social determinants of health cannot be addressed only through the healthcare system – a more holistic multisectoral approach with at its basis the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is needed to truly address social and economic inequalities and build more resilient systems. Yet there is reason for hope: the 2019 UN Political Declaration on UHC provides a strong framework for building more resilient health systems, with explicit calls for investment in NCDs and references to fiscal policies that put such investment firmly within reach. By further cementing the importance of addressing circulatory health in a future Framework Convention on Emergency Preparedness, we can take concrete steps towards a pandemic-free future.