This column is an opinion by Dr. Anca Matei, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Division Head of Surgical procedure at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S. She is pursuing a Grasp’s diploma in International Well being Coverage on the London College of Hygiene and Tropical Drugs. For extra details about CBC’s Opinion part, please see the FAQ.

The significance of public well being in instances like this can’t be denied and has by no means been extra compelling. But enterprise, as typical, continues to overshadow and undervalue it because the give attention to bolstering the financial system intensifies.

Well being and the financial system are intimately intertwined, and the state of affairs through which we discover ourselves right now is a direct consequence of the dance between well being and the financial system over the previous a number of many years.

The neo-liberal agenda has led us to imagine that financial development will convey wellbeing to the plenty, however in actuality it has typically merely made the wealthy richer and the poor poorer.

COVID-19 is a stark reminder that when push involves shove, it’s not the rich who will pull us via. It’s our well being care system: the well being care employees, the hospitals which have lengthy wanted renovations, and the applications which have been chronically underfunded.

As a doctor, I’m deeply immersed within the entrance line response to COVID-19. Between preparedness actions, which vary from conferences – with division heads, perioperative, maternal and neonatal well being committees, with nurses, with An infection Management – to simulations, webinars, on-line programs, and affected person care, I go searching and replicate on the bigger implications of what we’re experiencing now.

Well being-care employees placed on protecting gear earlier than coming into a nursing residence in early Could. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

This pandemic, like all pandemics earlier than it, will run its course. When it ends, we’re going again to the older epidemics that plague our well being care system: weight problems, diabetes, heart problems, most cancers, social inequalities, and an underfunded public well being care system that usually appears to take a again seat to political and financial pursuits.

I can not assist however surprise if the COVID-19 pandemic will probably be a turning level in public well being coverage.

Will this convey change to the unsatisfying developments in globalization? After the bodily distancing ends, will we have now the braveness, as a era, to face up and demand that good, knowledgeable, sensible public well being coverage be fastened on the core of private and non-private financial actions?

In 2003, Samuel Preston gave us the Preston Curve. This confirmed us that life expectancy was straight proportional to GDP per capita – on common, individuals in wealthier international locations are likely to reside longer than these in poorer nations – however solely up to a degree. After a sure GDP degree, life expectancy flattened out.

Preston used life expectancy as an indicator for well being, however in fact well being is a lot greater than an individual’s variety of birthdays. Critics of the Preston Curve level to the significance of issues reminiscent of literacy, vitamin, and total public well being. As well as, components reminiscent of social justice, spirituality, and social relationships are all necessary to what the World Well being Group (WHO) defines in its structure as not merely the absence of illness, however “a state of full bodily, psychological and social well-being.

The conclusion is evident: wealth doesn’t equal well being.

COVID-19 is a tragic reminder of this.

Developed international locations reminiscent of Italy, France, Spain and the U.S. have been devastated by the extent and dying toll of COVID-19. Well being care employees in all places have suffered excessive an infection charges, and important provides reminiscent of ventilators and private protecting gear have been briefly provide. In Canada, giant and small hospitals alike have been involved about their potential to deal with a surge of COVID-19 sufferers whereas sustaining important companies for the remaining.

What’s the good thing about selling an financial system of monetary elitism if, within the face of a global disaster such because the one we’re in now, long-term care services are overcrowded, hospitals do not need adequate house to correctly isolate suspected or confirmed COVID-19 sufferers, and physicians must determine which severely sick affected person has entry to an intensive care unit mattress and which doesn’t?

With out sturdy public well being coverage on the core of our social and financial methods, wealth is meaningless.

Merchants on the ground of the New York Inventory Change on March 16 watch shares plunge as enormous swaths of the financial system started to close down as a result of COVID-19 outbreak. (Craig Ruttle/The Related Press)

In a post-pandemic world going through the fact of a attainable recession, a important evaluation of our preparedness, our response, and what it tells about societies will ensue with a vengeance. Will we be happy with the established order of financial development for the sake of development, or will we demand financial restoration that additionally allows true well being – that state of full wellbeing that retains eluding us?

Will we demand that authorities investments in financial initiatives additionally translate to investments in our public well being?

Or will we return to the way in which we have been, the place politicians promise us clear air however spend money on pipelines? The place much-needed hospital expansions take a back-seat to bureaucratic processes and private pursuits? The place well being care employees are scrutinized, belittled and deemed dishonest – and solely hailed when, already underfunded and burnt out, they present as much as work day by day in the course of a pandemic?

As this disaster unfolds, we should ask ourselves these necessary questions.

When it’s previous us, we should ask our political representatives these troublesome questions and demand solutions previous to casting votes. We want a paradigm shift.


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