Call from Chair of PHA's Asian Caucus to work together to combat COVID-19

31 Mar 2020 3:59 PM | Anonymous

Dr Lifeng Zhou, Chair of the PHA's Asian Caucus calls for everyone to work together, all countries/territories, ethnic groups, faiths and cultures, in the containment of the Pandemic COVID-19:
 
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) declared (11 March 2020) that the outbreak of COVID-19 in the world is a ‘pandemic’. A pandemic is defined as the uncontrolled worldwide spread of a new disease.

COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, officially named as SARS-Cov2, is a new illness that can affect lungs, airways and other organs. According to WHO as of 18 March 2020, there were 191,127 confirmed cases reported globally with 7807 deaths. China and the Republic of Korea had significantly declining epidemics, but the spread of SARS-Cov2 in other parts of the world is significant.

WHO calls for all countries and territories to take urgent and vigilant action to work together, to do the right things with calm, to protect all citizens of the world.

However, since the emergence of COVID-19 we have seen instances of public stigmatisation, the rise of racism and use of stereotypes against some population groups. This is harmful and unethical, as stigma can, according to WHO, 1) drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination, 2) prevent people from seeking health care immediately and 3) discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours.

While we’re very happy to see the Ministry of Health show its understanding of and respect for the Chinese culture when 157 people from Wuhan were held in quarantine for two weeks, we are also dismayed to hear how Chinese people have experienced stigma and discrimination associated with public fear of the novel coronavirus in New Zealand.

The recent Public Health Expert blog of “Getting Through Together: Ethical Values for a Pandemic” written by Ruth Cunningham, Charlotte Paul and Andrew Moore, provides balanced ethical considerations when responding to a pandemic like COVID-19. We all need to draw on our common humanity and be explicit about our values. As they put it: “Recognising this will help us make good decisions in difficult situations so that, for example, the need to impose restrictive measures and to protect ourselves does not conflict with fairness, respect, and neighbourliness.”

The PHA together with its Asian Caucus call each of us to be intentional and thoughtful when communicating on social media and other platforms, showing supportive behaviours as we fight against our common health threat: the novel coronavirus.   
 
Be Safe by following public health advice;
Be Smart by being informed from accurate sources;
Be Kind and support one another to fight COVID-19

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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand

                                            

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