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Posts Tagged ‘first-responder’

There is a lot of talk about how to deal with the next pandemic. The consensus is that there is going to be a next pandemic; we do not know when, but we do know there is going to be one. So, are we ready for it?

If we believe the panellists on a recent webinar by The Economist, the answer is an unqualified no. Of all the possible explanations on why we are in such a situation of unpreparedness I subscribe that of Dr. John Nkengasong (Director of African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention): There is a deficit of “trust capital”.

The deficit exists among governments, and between governments and their citizens. Let’s start with lack of trust among governments. No one claims that a pandemic is not a world health problem. But if it is a global problem, why are we still ignoring the obvious fact that if we do not collaborate globally we are not going to solve “our” problem? A pandemic is not going to disappear until it has been eradicated from the most remote country. Trusting other governments means that part of our resources should be directed to other countries so that we can advance in unison.

As for the second aspect, the lack of trust between a government and its citizens, there are plenty of examples. Do we need to be reminded how some people stormed the USA Congress? What about those who refuse to be vaccinated because they believe in weird conspiracy theories? This aspect of lack of trust is as dangerous as the previous. Why? Because citizens are the first responders in a pandemic.

If we want to manage the next pandemic more efficiently, we need to involve first responders. A paper by Ying Yang et al[1] points out that “Epidemics start and end in communities, where citizens are often the first to observe changes in the environment and in animal health, and the first to be exposed to new or re-emerging pathogens”. We should follow the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 so as “… to promote a culture of disaster prevention, resilience and responsible citizenship, generate understanding of disaster risk …”. We should invest in educating citizens so that they can identify changes that foreshadow a possible pandemic. They are the cornerstone of a more efficient future preparation and response to the next pandemic.


[1] Ying Yang Chan E, Gobat N, Dubois C, Bedson J, Rangel de Almeida J. Bottom-up citizen engagement for health emergency and disaster risk management: directions since COVID-19. The Lancet Published Online June 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01233-2

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Most people in the developed world rely on the authorities for most of their basic needs, be it daily needs, such as healthcare, or emergency response, such as forest fires.

Healthcare professionals are intent that we, as individuals, take a more active attitude in preserving our health. Obviously, those most interested in preserving our health is we ourselves.

Is it the same when we face emergencies? Do we take responsibility for acting as knowledgeable first-responders in case of an emergency? I want to underline KNOWLEDGABLE; I am not talking about acting for the sake of acting. Most of those impromptu UNKNOWLEDGEABLE actions are nothing more than running around like headless chickens, making noise without any contribution to ameliorating the consequences of the event.

This is the gordian knot of emergency prevention and response: should citizens be the first first-responders in case of an emergency? Taking control of our lives seems to be a good winning strategy; consequently I would say that citizens should be able to respond efficiently in case of an emergency. They are in the front line of the incident. If they know how to behave, critical time can be gained with a prompt and efficient response before professionals arrive.

Furthermore, a knowledgeable citizenry is essential in the prevention stage. Forest fires could be prevented if people take responsibility for keeping forests clean, clearing up plastic bags, glass bottles, underbrush and so forth.

Assuming, as I and most people do, that informed citizens should be a goal in our societies, why is it that in developed countries -with the possible exception of Japan- authorities have been neglecting actions to train citizens in emergency prevention and response? I don’t have the answer, but something should be done soon if we don´t want to hear again “our response emergency protocols should be re-evaluated”.

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