Focus on the humans, not the virus: Better diagnostics are crucial for more robust, pandemic-proof primary healthcare
In this podcast, Dr. Bill Rodriguez and Dr. Fifa Rahman discuss why it is vital to improve access to Covid-19 diagnostics and strengthen primary healthcare systems to make humans, rather than the SARS-COV-2 virus, the focus of the global pandemic response.
Creating human-centered health systems
“It has been about the virus and not about the people for a very long time,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriquez and Rahman both highlight that globally there must be a shift in focus from the SARS-COV-2 virus to the humans affected by it.
They agree that the focus must be on strengthening primary healthcare systems and designing diagnostics and digital tools to enable the treatment of people with respiratory symptoms at a community level.
Rahman emphasized that this would mean fighting paternalism at a global level. She used the example that global health decision-makers raised concerns if people in lower-income countries could read the results of self-tests for Covid-19 and act on it, even though self-tests for HIV and pregnancy have been around for a long time.
Communities must become the focus
Rodriques said decision-makers, primarily male and European, needed more input on what was happening at a community level.
He said a clear example of this was that it took global health organizations two years to finalize a policy recommendation on self-testing. One of the concerns raised was that it would not be possible to collect data on the virus if people self-test.
At the same time, Rahman pointed out; there was a genuine risk of Covid-19 spreading in a community while people had to wait for days to access test results done at a laboratory.
“We would be negligent if we do not take this opportunity to redesign the system,” Rodriquez said.
He stressed that strengthening public healthcare systems should be a priority in preparing for the next pandemic.
Dr. Bill Rodriguez is the CEO of FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics. Dr. Fifa Rahman is the Principal Consultant at Matahari Global Solutions and a Permanent NGO Representative at the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.