January 04, 2019

Public health information cannot always be trusted, because there is often inaccurate reporting, and geopolitics that surround infectious disease. In a disease-ridden world, trustworthy health alerts, travel advisories, and recommendations - such as those produced by WorldAware - can make a significant difference to individual travelers and to a company’s bottom line.


Impact of Globalization

Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. A person’s proximity to any of these infectious agents is a critical factor in the transmission and spread of infectious disease. As a result, time and distance serve as natural protective barriers against infectious disease. However, due to globalization and modern modes of transportation of both people and goods, distance and time offer progressively less protection against the spread of infectious disease. Rather, infectious disease poses an ever-increasing danger to the health and well-being of people around the world. As the saying goes, diseases are just a plane flight away. In response to this threat, national and intergovernmental organizations have developed various policies and regulations in an attempt to prevent and control the spread of these illnesses.


Global Infectious Disease Governance and Policy Have a Long Way to Go

Out of necessity, the approaches used by governments to control the international spread of infectious disease have evolved alongside increasing globalization. The traditional method used by governments to control the spread of infectious disease has a core focus on national sovereignty. Under this approach, border regulation is used as the primary barrier to prevent the importation of infectious disease. Examples include importation (trade) restrictions and quarantines. Due to the exponential growth of globalization during the 19th and early 20th century, though, this approach started to fall out of favor. Countries began to realize that border regulations imposed by other countries negatively impacted their own economy by obstructing the movement of capital, goods, and people. As a result, national and international regulations and policies were developed to prevent unnecessary interference with global trade and travel.

In 2003, the WHO issued global health alerts, travel advisories, and recommendations concerning the multinational SARS outbreak. This was the first time that an international organization acted independently of national governments concerning an infectious disease outbreak. For many in the public health community, the actions of the WHO regarding the SARS outbreak were the beginning of a global health governance revolution.

While global health policy has made significant advances, cooperation and coordination between national governments and the WHO to address global infectious disease threats have a long way to go.


Government and Media Public Health Information Is Not Always Accurate


Accurate global surveillance is vital for preventing and controlling the spread of infectious disease to individuals around the world. Yet, a public, objective, and global infectious disease surveillance system does not exist. Organizations and individuals who need public health information must depend on governmental and non-governmental information. Unfortunately, this public health information cannot always be trusted.

For many, a primary source of public health information is the government; however, government-sourced information may be intentionally inaccurate due to fear that reports will have adverse effects on travel or trade. In many situations, observers have caught government sources releasing skewed, flawed, or untimely information in order to minimize these effects. For example, the Chinese government’s release of information about the SARS epidemic was so deficient and untimely that international health officials had to resort to the Internet and anecdotal evidence to try to understand what was happening on the ground.

Another primary source of public health information is the media, but the media are often inaccurate, alarmist, or naïve to the public health implications of a given situation. For example, parts of the DRC are currently experiencing an Ebola outbreak which has gained widespread, international attention. Reading articles about Ebola’s 90-percent mortality rate and how infected people succumb to the virus has caused the media across the world to sound the alarm about the disease. Yet, the real risk of disease transmission for persons not involved in healthcare or mortuary services is actually low. In fact, the necessary preventive measures against contracting the virus involve fairly specialized circumstances and practices: avoiding contact with animals and items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or blood, and staying away from any location where bushmeat is collected, butchered, or sold. Thus, relying too heavily upon the media can result in unnecessary fear or actions, especially by non-medical professionals.


The Need for Global Infectious Disease Surveillance by Public Health Professionals

In a world where infectious disease poses an ever-increasing threat, individuals and businesses must have a timely and accurate awareness of these threats in order to protect themselves, their people, their business operations, their supply chains, and their interests around the world. To the average person, understanding infectious disease threats, and their impact on travel and commerce, can be an overwhelming and daunting task. As such, global infectious disease surveillance by trained public health professionals - who can offer early warning through timely, predictive, and actionable intelligence allowing reasonable and informed decision-making - is vital for travelers and global business operations.


About WorldAware

WorldAware provides intelligence-driven, integrated risk management solutions that enable multinational organizations to operate globally with confidence. WorldAware’s end-to-end tailored solutions, integrated world-class threat intelligence, innovative technology, and response services help organizations mitigate risk and protect their people, assets, and reputations.