Covid-19 accentuates systemic gaps and sociodemographic determinants of health outcomes.
Lack of investment in preventive measures interfered with the Malaysian Covid-19 management.
Labour shortage and undigitized data management overwhelmed the public health system’s ability to circumvent growing clusters at the end of 2020 and the highly infectious Delta variant at the beginning of 2021.
Like other countries, deprived sociodemographic groups suffer disproportionately.
Infection and mortality rates suggest that vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19. Groups like migrant workers, poor families in public housing and prisoners not only have limited access to health facilities and information but are also more likely to live in high-density places.
As more frequent and severe outbreaks are expected, countries need to proactively invest in preventive measures and adopt a whole society approach.
The Klang Valley Taskforce is an example that a whole society approach can be done. We should further leverage on civil society’s capacity and expertise beyond service delivery and awareness-raising efforts.
Public Health goes beyond the national systems. It’s timely and urgent to look at planetary health.
Planetary health focuses on health outcomes that arise from the interconnectedness of various moving parts.
Planetary health refers to “the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”. It seeks to address the root causes of health outcomes to avoid recurrent cyclical patterns.
Data suggests that Malaysia has achieved social foundations at the cost of violating planetary boundaries.
A planetary boundary is defined as the “safe operating space for humanity”. Indicators like CO2 emissions and material footprint suggest that Malaysian social developments are at the risk of becoming unsustainable.
Covid-19 can serve as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for bigger global challenges in the future.
It is more urgent than ever to adopt a planetary approach. Amplified risks coming from climate change or a collapse in biodiversity highlight the need to rethink and relook at the interconnectedness of global systems.
Further knowledge decentralization is needed given the less-than-desirable international cooperation in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inequitable vaccine distribution is a reality.
Despite knowing that a pandemic cannot be contained with localized strategies, countries in the North have delayed the rollout of vaccines, which in turn affected vaccine distribution and production in other countries.
Without equitable access to vaccines, it is difficult to see the end of this pandemic.
Vaccination lags have affected developing countries’ abilities to distribute and produce vaccine. This delay may give rise to more COVID-19 variants that will lead to a prolonged pandemic that requires additional interventions.
Knowledge decentralization is a viable alternative, and it is possible.
Other countries outside the North have shown that they can produce their own vaccines. These include but are not limited to Cuba, India, China and Russia. Countries should pursue blue-sky research and make their findings a public good.