The pandemic has shown that the old way of diagnosing illness in silos is irrelevant and could be costly, Ronald Benjamin writes.
The Covid-19 crisis has shown the world that governing an ecosystem is crucial for the survival of humanity.
An ecosystem includes all living things (plants, animals and organisms) in a given area that interact with each other, as well as the non-living environment (weather, earth, sun, soil, climate, atmosphere) that surround the living things.
According to researchers, the proximity between wildlife and humans has made zoonotic-related diseases easily transmitted to human beings, and Covid-19 is believed to have spread through such means.
Sustainable development goals 13, 14 and 15 are closely related to the governance of the ecosystem, and goal 17 speaks about the importance of partnership for sustainable development.
This brings about a vital question: have we integrated a healthy ecosystem with the health and wellbeing of Malaysians? For example, are health authorities able to link air pollution to respiratory disease among certain Malaysians? Are there statistics on deaths due to air pollution in Malaysia? If they have, what are the actions taken?
Can we relate illness like mental health to high temperatures, where people live in cramped conditions and cannot afford an air-conditioner? Do we have statistics on cases of heatstroke due to the high temperatures in this country? Currently, we treat illness in silos, and it would be an unmitigated disaster in the future if the government and health authorities do not learn from the health crisis.
The major national challenges confronting us today is really the lack of proper stewardship and lack of proper governance for our natural systems. There are so many cross-links between our natural systems, the state of the environment and human health.
Anthropogenic drivers, such as environmental pollution and deforestation originating from human activity, have affected various ecosystems and have major impacts such as the occurrence of natural hazards, disasters, and diseases. The coronavirus crisis and the natural disasters we have faced, like landslides that cause death and injury, are proof that governments around the world have failed to integrate the ecosystem, the environment and the healthcare system.
It is time for the government to move towards a new paradigm to integrate the ecosystem with healthcare that would rejuvenate health consciousness in this country. It is vital to apply systemic thinking in our healthcare system, with the framework of relevant sustainable development goals, where government sectors are encouraged not to work in silos but through partnership.
The pandemic has shown that the old way of diagnosing illness in silos is irrelevant and costly.