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ICYMI: preventing pandemics, tackling health inequalities, award-winners, and press freedom in limbo

This week, the column reports on eight principles for tackling health inequalities at a local level, links readers into the large volume of submissions to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the COVID response, and highlights the importance of United States foreign policy for global health.

We also bring news on First Nations health, award-winning research, NDIS legislation and Julian Assange, and preview a stack of upcoming conferences likely to be of interest to many Croakey readers.

The quotable?

…there will be no solution to the existential threat of climate change without cooperation between China and the United States, the two largest carbon emitters in the world. There will also be no hope for seriously addressing the next pandemic without United States-Chinese cooperation.”


Global health

Writing in Nature Communications, researchers present a roadmap for preventing pandemics by reducing pathogen transmission from wildlife to humans and other animals.

They say strategic conservation and restoration of nature for reservoir hosts, and mitigation of risks for humans most at risk – what they call “ecological countermeasures” – can prevent spillover and protect human and animal health, while also addressing key drivers of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Their article begins: “Reducing the risk of future pandemics requires investment in prevention, preparedness, and response. At present, most attention and funding is allocated to mitigation after a pathogen is already circulating in humans, prioritising outbreak detection and medical countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics.

“By contrast, primary pandemic prevention – defined as reducing the likelihood a pathogen transmits from its animal host into humans – has received less attention in global conversations, policy guidance, and practice. Given the time delays in identifying and responding to outbreaks, and the inequity in treatment distributions, investing in pandemic prevention is essential to achieve efficient, equitable, and cost-effective protection from disease.

“To effectively prevent pandemics, we must recognise two key points: first that pandemics almost always start with a microbe infecting a wild animal in a natural environment and second that human-caused land-use change often triggers the events – whether through wildlife trade or other distal activities ­– that facilitate spillover of microbes from wild animals to humans.

“As land-use change becomes more intense and extensive, the risk of zoonotic spillovers, and subsequent epidemics and pandemics, will increase. Designing land management and conservation strategies to explicitly limit spillover is central to meeting the challenge of pandemic prevention at a global scale.”

Ecological countermeasures to prevent pathogen spillover and subsequent pandemics

The sub-title to this article by Senator Bernie Sanders is ‘Replacing Greed, Militarism, and Hypocrisy With Solidarity, Diplomacy, and Human Rights’. In reviewing the past and present of United States foreign policy, Sanders highlights many global health concerns.

He writes: “…there will be no solution to the existential threat of climate change without cooperation between China and the United States, the two largest carbon emitters in the world. There will also be no hope for seriously addressing the next pandemic without United States-Chinese cooperation. And instead of starting a trade war with China, Washington could create mutually beneficial trade agreements that benefit workers in both countries—not just multinational corporations.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/mar/27/recruitment-of-nurses-from-global-south-branded-new-form-of-colonialism

Read more about the new CoViNet.

Link into a new report from the National Academies in the United States examining lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and mpox multi-country outbreak, informing an evaluation of the state of smallpox research, development, and stockpiling of medical countermeasures.
This article in the BMJ (paywall) investigates how more than 40 local authorities across England and Wales have committed to making a long term difference to the health of their communities.

Marmot Places develop and deliver interventions and policies to improve health equity based on eight principles:

  1. Give every child the best start in life
  2. Enable all children, young people, and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
  3. Create fair employment and good work for all
  4. Ensure a healthy standard of living for all
  5. Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
  6. Strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention
  7. Tackle racism, discrimination, and their outcomes
  8. Pursue environmental sustainability and health equity together.

Women over the age of 60 and women with disabilities, face a higher risk of abuse yet their experiences are largely hidden in most data, according to two new publications released this week by the World Health Organization. See more at Health Policy Watch.


First Nations

The Albanese Government in partnership with the Lowitja Institute recently hosted the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Ministers Roundtable.