Imagine that the “James Bond” of the future is an epidemiologist by training.
Nuclear bomb was powerful enough to end the world war 2. However, in 1940s the atomic bomb was not the most powerful weapon of the last resort. Many nations stockpiled the Anthrax and botulinum supplies to be used in the case of ultimate doom. The heads of global corporates fear more about pandemics and cyber attacks, than military attacks. Compromised food supply chains can obliterate nations and civilizations. The definition of national security is evolving and now encapsulates military defence, healthcare systems, food security, and cyber immunity.
The global temperament is sailing in tense territory owing to insecurities germinated by a pandemic with a potential malefice. As the pandemics have killed more people than any war in the history, this is the time to drastically upgrade the healthcare systems. Military defense is a public good in every nation. Food security is a fundamental right ubiquitously. But universal access to healthcare is not yet universal. Healthcare deserves to be the basic right and a public good, especially during a pandemic.
For majority nations, the current healthcare machinery is rusted and is not bio-war combat ready. Politics and bureaucracy are crippling the code blue response on a massive scale. Significant conflict of interest for political gains, economic stability, and cuffed hands erodes the integrity of a politician to act rightly. During a war, military generals gain autonomous decision making to deal with the situations expediently. Analogically, in a biomedical combat or pandemic situation, the medical heads of the states should be given all the decision-making power.
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Health Systems During Biomedical Wars and Pandemics
- Apolitical non-Bureaucratic Public Health Decision-making: During wars and emergency situations, the fundamental rights of the electorate are suspended. A pandemic or bio-war is no different. A prejudiced approach of political or bureaucratic bodies will be more lethal than the actual biomedical agent of catastrophe. Like a military general, head of medical national medical affairs should be rested with the authority make decisions around fundamental rights and plan of action, without political meddling. General public should be made aware of the wartime protocols and must imbibe the sense of responsibility to implement them.
- Financial Security to Medical Staff: Medical front line staffers are highly exposed to the biomedical agents. In an infection outbreak, the mortality rates amongst medical staffers is higher than the general population. The frontline workers and their families must be covered through protective equipment, community support, insurances, and other monetary allowances during the testing times. These benefits should be aligned to what military personnel get in terms of tax deductions, life insurances, and veteran benefits.
- Centralized Healthcare Control Rooms: War or not, military has access to a super high-tech war room. Central health system authority of every nation should invest in a medical control room to manage every healthcare facility. The prerequisite is that all the health facilities were interconnected via digital health infrastructure. When health of every citizen is digitally accounted for (like financial information), the pandemic threats can be detected in infancy and dealt with a surgical precision.
- Medical Self-Reliance: Healthcare is increasingly becoming an instrument of trade leverage. In the testing times, countries are negotiating trade deals in exchange for medical supplies. To avoid any blackmails in needy times, a strategic focus is to become self sufficient in the terms of medical supplies. Local manufacturing of devices, consumables, and therapeutics would shield nations from vulnerable situations.
Health Systems During Peace Time
- Tactical Drills and Simulations: Protocols around lockdowns, vaccinations, economic activity, etc. be tested in a simulated environment during peace time. For decades, military has been testing the spread of non-lethal biological agents on beaches, metropolitans, and subways. It is about time that healthcare frontline staff hold the baton for such simulations. Military and medical staff should interoperate. Medical teams must learn the warfare tactics. A union of clinical and tactical skills is the need of the hour. It is imperative for the health systems to develop clinical and social protocols for the unprecedented situations.
- Health Resource as a Diplomatic Tool: During peace times, military uses its surplus forces as a diplomatic tool to support United Nations (UN) in various mission of peace keeping. As the healthcare systems endeavour to develop surplus healthcare capacity, this extra capacity can be used as a diplomatic tool to improve healthcare in emerging nations. The focus here is to practice preventive medicine and make allied nations self sufficient through proper training of the workforce.
- Invest in Building Manual Capacity: The epicenter of wars is shifting from beyond boarders to inland hotspots. Where military neutralizes the enemy usually outside the border, healthcare acts by saving the lives within national borders. Humans are, and will always be, the most valuable assets of any nation. Investment into healthcare would save more lives than any other investment.
- Medical Spies and Intelligence Organizations: Epidemiological organizations are undergoing to a transformation to develop a predictive capability. The aim is for every nation to be able to screen the globe and detect the origin of threat early on. Tools that enable the monitoring of global news, analysis of Google search data, and patterns in disease movement have shown promising capability in raising a timely alarm. A team of clinicians, data scientists, and social media experts might run the intelligence agencies of future. Imagine that the “James Bond” of the future is an epidemiologist by training.
On a concluding note, providing a universal healthcare access is not a debate of capitalism or socialism. Having a cutting-edge health system for everyone is a national defence strategy. The health systems are overdue for an overhaul. Transforming the role that health staff plays in national health policy is the starting point. Healthcare policies should be aimed to develop competencies to prevent pandemics and fight wars that do not exist yet. Clinicians, statisticians, and scientists are going to be the spies, detectives, and warriors of tomorrow.
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