PANDEMICS - Existential threats & enablers of change - 07 May 2020 15:00

Pandemics (global epidemics) are existential threats to society. They are wildcard events that send shockwaves through our global systems and cause us to radically alter the way we live, work, organise and approach health and healthcare.

The current COVID-19 pandemic, for all its tragedy, will also be an enabler of change. It will force us to rethink how we approach healthcare as it relates to things like public-private partnerships, automation, non-contact health technology and data sharing. It will also have wider societal implications. Our current health crisis has destructive effects on the global economy, and it highlights the ability (or inability) of different governmental, ideological and health systems to react and adapt to shocks. It will radically affect business models and change the way we work and organise our workplaces - it is already becoming the greatest experiment in remote work ever conducted. Hopefully, the lessons learned from COVID-19 will also enable us to chart new paths of global cooperation and preparedness.

Although our future trajectory is still clouded by much uncertainty, historical pandemics can teach us much about how disruptive to society a rapid spread of disease and loss of life can be, and what long-term effects – both positive and negative – this can have. The depopulation of Europe that followed the bubonic plague led to increased social mobility for peasants and the introduction of labour-saving innovation. The Spanish Flu led to the establishment of health ministries in many countries and to the creation of an international bureau for combatting epidemics, a forerunner to WHO. In assessing the lessons learned from both past pandemics and our current crisis, this report aims to support individuals, organisations and societies in charting a way forward and to strengthen our preparedness for the future pandemics that are sure to come.

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