As 2022 approaches, Portugal must learn the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the health sector.
The first lesson is the importance of health education and the need to increase literacy levels in the community in this area. Not that the Portuguese, in general, did not show a high civic level compared to other European peoples. This shows the vaccination rate. But we can do more and better. And school is the perfect place to start a more advanced type of training in this field from an early age. Not least, health literacy has very positive externalities in other areas such as promoting healthy lifestyles. For example, in terms of food or smoking ban.
The second lesson to learn is to significantly improve performance in terms of healthy communication. It was heartbreaking to witness some interventions by those in charge of the sector, even the President of the Republic, at times, with the expectation of unavoidable public health measures such as the use of masks in public places. This failure to communicate, as well as seriousness in and of itself, opened the public domain to countless “political health analysts,” sometimes disguised as experts, creating massive confusion in society. That is, it is important to establish a reliable and respected framework for communicating scientific evidence in an assertive and compelling manner.
Another lesson of great importance at the political and social level is the quality of health management. Let’s learn right away that it is necessary to improve the organizational culture in this area. It is true that the Covid-19 vaccination program has been a success that we can all be proud of. The exceptional role played by health professionals in this campaign is emphatic, with a special focus on the nurses who with dedication and professionalism fulfilled their mission of vaccinating the Portuguese on a large scale. But it is also true that it was military discipline and organization – which Vice-Admiral Juvia e Mello interpreted in a superior way – that allowed its application. Therefore, the lesson to be learned is to improve the training of managers in the field of health, especially with regard to leadership.
The fourth lesson relates to the need for strategic planning. Planning in terms of facilities and equipment, but above all human resources is essential. The European Union has realized this by creating infrastructures at the European level and forming a strategic reserve of medicines and medical devices so that they are not held hostage to any foreign power. But in terms of human resources, the task must be at the level of the National Health Service, so it is necessary to plan in the medium term (at least a decade), and with technical precision, for future needs. What does not seem to be happening. Incomprehensible, for example, is the lack of knowledge about the importance of general and family medicine, and the central role of primary health care. This lesson has not been learned.
The final lesson concerns the protection of human rights as well as individual privacy. Despite the implementation of important public health measures, with undeniable economic and social impact, such as confinement, digital green certification, or vaccination of children and youth, it is necessary to promote a serious debate in our society between individual rights and social rights. the responsibility. So that in the future there are clear and unambiguous guidelines on how to move forward in extremist positions, promoting democracy and human rights, but also the duties of citizenship.
In other words, in 2022, hopefully, in the post-pandemic era, health policy will be reshaped in light of the nearly two-year experience of unprecedented global catastrophe, but it must necessarily make us stronger and better prepared.
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