Learn from COVID-19 experience to improve public health security, experts say

Cai Wenjun
The government, organizations, professionals and the public should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance preparedness and response to public health emergencies, experts say.
Cai Wenjun

Collaborative and intelligence-supported surveillance plays a crucial role in global public health security, and the government, organizations, professionals and the public should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance preparedness, vigilance and response to public health emergencies, according to experts.

Infectious disease prevention, COVID-19 strategies and vaccines, vaccination innovation and new technology, and vaccination policies were among topics discussed by health officials and medical experts from home and abroad at the Shanghai Infectious Diseases Forum on Tuesday.

COVID-19, as the latest global pandemic, was covered in detail.

Chin Kei Lee from the World Health Organization China Representative Office, made a speech titled "Learning from COVID-19: Strengthening public health surveillance for health emergency preparedness."

The emergency is over but COVID is not, and it is now important to strengthen the global network for health emergency prevention, preparedness, response and resilience, said Lee, the WHO China Office's incident manager of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

He stressed five components for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience – emergency coordination, collaborative surveillance, community protection, access to countermeasures and clinical care.

High technology such as Internet-based surveillance systems have been used by the WHO, which has adapted public health intelligence activities in infectious disease prevention and control.

There are huge differences between traditional and modern approaches to pathogen surveillance, Lee pointed out.

The traditional surveillance techniques usually consist of human patients present for healthcare services, hospitalized patients, laboratory diagnosis, pathogen genome sequencing, mortality estimation and on-the-ground investigation, including active case finding and contact tracing.

Modern measures include detection of signals of public health events from unstructured textual online information, including social media channels, data from sectors not routinely included in public health surveillance such as animal health, occupational health and police reports, community reporting of cases, deaths or events among humans or animals, geospatial remote-sensing and mobile-phone mobility data, and the Internet of Things.

"We are the generation that lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, so we must be the generation that learns the lessons it has taught us, and makes the changes to ensure our future generations are safer," said Lee.

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