U.S., Chinese experts urge better cooperation on public health policy
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the globe, experts from the United States and China emphasized at an online seminar Tuesday that cooperation is the silver bullet for battling the global pandemic.
During the seminar, co-hosted by the University of Southern California (USC) and the U.S. Heartland China Association, a panel of medical experts and academics discussed the role of public health systems and approaches to more effective public health information, among other issues.
All the panelists stressed the need for widespread cooperation between scientists and officials in the United States, China and around the world.
As an excellent example of international cooperation, they applauded how China shared access to the novel coronavirus' genetic code so the whole world could work collectively toward finding a vaccine.
One panelist remarked, "We have reached clinical trials on vaccines in just six months, which, under normal circumstances, could take years."
The panelists also concurred that the World Health Organization was essential to serving its members as a global health coordinator, for setting norms and standards, and for bringing scientists together to collaborate in times of need.
However, Clayton Dube, director of the USC U.S.-China Institute, suggested there is more work to be done. "Better communication between countries, scientists and disciplines is still needed."
Bruce Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York, said, "We focus too much on the differences between countries. We need to work together because there is no difference to the virus' impact around the world."
"When we are talking about health, we are all one people," concluded Vivian Lin, executive associate dean and professor of public health practices with the LKS faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong.
"Throughout history, governments derive legitimacy from looking after the health and safety of their people," said Lin.
Lin asserted that governments must have the best, most accurate data available to support their decisions, as well as effective regulation and constant reform.
"Not just to protect people individually but to produce a more productive workforce," she noted.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that China has made huge investments in the public health sector since the SARS outbreak in 2003.
"We have invested in our public health and medical systems so we could respond rapidly to new outbreaks. Because new outbreaks aren't a matter of 'if,'" he warned, "but 'when.'"
More than one panelist stressed that getting across the vital importance of COVID-19 testing as well as translating complex medical processes and terms into language that the public can understand were crucial to managing this public health crisis.
"This isn't just about science; it's about the public response to scientific information," a panelist from the pharmaceutical sector noted.
"Keeping communication open is by far the most important way to maintain public trust and prevent the rapid spread of unsubstantiated rumors," advised Wu. "If you don't share information with the public, they worry."
Lin suggested an effective way to improve public awareness and understanding of health issues. "We need to integrate the science into our movies, our schools, etc., so the public becomes more fluent in science. We need to address this knowledge deficit before a pandemic hits."
"How and when you communicate is as important as what you communicate," said Dube, who moderated the online seminar.
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