oni1_YASUYOSHI CHIBAAFP via Getty Images_africakenyacoronavirusfieldhospital Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

Impact Investment’s Pandemic Challenge

After every global emergency, those who extended support to the world's poorest and most vulnerable usually snap back to "business as usual," all but ensuring that the next crisis will be as severe as the last. This time must be different.

CAMBRIDGE – The COVID-19 pandemic will have dangerous, far-reaching implications long into the future, especially if it derails recent improvements in many countries’ historically weak health systems. To avoid that outcome, we urgently need to move beyond merely “protecting the needy” in times of crisis. Episodic donations are not enough. Now is the time to start removing the structural and systemic barriers that have long stood in the way of sustained improvements in global health.

Following global emergencies, the international community tends to revert to “business as usual,” rather than preparing for future disasters. With policymakers focusing solely on fighting fires, instead of addressing their underlying causes, there never seems to be a good time for prevention and mitigation.

And yet, the pandemic has demonstrated that an efficient and effective public-health response requires more than a well-functioning health-care system. It also calls for more robust “systems for health,” which comprise all the sectors that influence public health, including manufacturing, food, transportation, and urban development. While most of those working in these sectors would not readily identify as “health professionals,” they nonetheless play a pivotal role in producing good health outcomes.

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