As we gradually move toward a post-pandemic world, the health sector’s engagement with health authorities has never been more important.
Just over two years on from the first official COVID-19 case being declared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, you would be forgiven for not having believed we could still be in this position in March 2022.
In fact, one of the most consistent themes that we have seen throughout this time has been the general underestimation of the duration and severity of the pandemic, which has resulted in some of the world's — initially considered — best in class regional pandemic responses now being scuttled.
Early APAC champions like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia — who initially had low rates of infection and transmission thanks to hard lockdown and border protection strategies — have progressively been met with resistance, disappointment and anger from residents due to an ongoing, tangled and exhausting variant battlefield.
The early resilience has given way to profound economic downturn in some markets and increasing tension, causing communities to question the decision making of their leaders and, in turn, diminishing trust in government leadership.
Government trust has declined globally since the height of the pandemic, with 66 percent of global respondents worried their country’s government leaders are purposely trying to mislead people, according to our January 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. Even health authorities, found to be the most believable source on health topics in our most recent release, the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health, face a warning sign — more than half of global respondents worry medical science is being used to support a specific political agenda.
Business has both the opportunity and the responsibility to step into government’s trust void, to protect lives by elevating health authorities and scientific fact. In particular, health businesses must take on the challenge of restoring trust through action amidst the turmoil.
Well, first, because our newest report shows that, globally, trust in healthcare companies remains strong, with nearly two in three people saying they trust them to do what is right. Health sector leaders have a responsibility to maintain and grow this level of trust.
Second — because we need all populations to believe that there is equity in health and that no matter your status, you have the right to accessible healthcare information, solutions and care. The health industry has a primary role to play in ensuring that this becomes a reality. We can achieve that through collaborative access strategies, societal initiatives undertaken in partnership with communities, as well as working with representative and trustworthy spokespersons to deliver messaging.
Third — it’s clear that health authorities need help. Health is complex, fast paced and constantly evolving — traits that government is not typically known for. But the healthcare sector’s ability to deliver innovative health solutions will only ever be as good as the sector’s ability to work with health authorities to bring innovation to market.
And fourth — our employees are counting on us to do it. With the well-documented struggle for talent raging, our most recent report found ‘my employer’ is one of the most believable sources of information on health, and over three quarters of employees expect their employer to play a meaningful role in making sure they are as healthy as possible. We are obligated to play our part.
It is clear that now is the time for health sector leaders to seriously consider the important role of experts who specialize in engaging health authorities, as well as patient and professional communities. As a sector, we need people who firstly understand the intricacies and challenges of delivering health solutions, and can also work with public policymakers, to provide informed, long-term decisions for the benefit of communities for generations to come.
And as we move — hopefully — into a post pandemic world, our ability to restore and protect trust by listening to, engaging and partnering with health authorities will never have been more important.
Will Collie is Chair of Health in our APAC operations.