Over 40 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals from 90 countries, including many working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, sent a letter to G20 leaders urging them to put public health at the center of their economic recovery packages, to help avoid future crises and make the world more resilient to them.
In the biggest health community mobilization since the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, over 350 medical groups representing health professionals — including the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations — signed the letter on behalf of their members, along with thousands of individual health professionals.
The letter asks governments to prioritize investments in public health, clean air, clean water and a stable climate in the economic stimulus packages currently under consideration. Such investments would reduce air pollution and climate-warming emissions, which damage human health, build greater resilience to future pandemics, and simultaneously create more sustainable jobs, it says.
To achieve this healthy recovery, leaders of the G20 countries must involve their medical and scientific community in developing the stimulus packages. These stimulus decisions must also take into account medical and scientific assessments of how the measures will impact public health in the short- and long-term.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed doctors, nurses and other health professionals to death, disease and mental distress at levels not seen in decades. The scale of this pain could have been at least partially mitigated by adequate investments in pandemic preparedness, public health and environmental stewardship, the letter states.
Leaders must learn from these mistakes and recover in a way that makes the world stronger, healthier and more resilient, the health professionals say. Governments have the power to make this transformation in the next 12-18 months, depending on where and how they direct the trillions of dollars they are about to inject into the economy. International summits this year give world leaders the opportunity to jointly set public health at the core of all recovery efforts, including the G7 summit on June 10, the European Council on June 18-19, the IMF-World Bank meeting on October 16-18 and the G20 summit on November 21-22.
As Covid-19 has made clear, the economy suffers when human health is compromised, the health professionals say. Their message is that a science-based approach to a healthy recovery from Covid-19 must lead to decisions to reduce both air pollution, which weakens the lungs, hearts and other organs, and greenhouse gas emissions, which cause drought, extreme heat, flooding, wildfires and other life-threatening disruptions.
A healthy recovery requires governments to invest in sustainable and innovative industries, jobs, food production and food supply chains. In doing so, the health professionals say, leaders will encourage healthier diets, more renewable energy, more walking, cycling and zero-emissions public transport, a radical regeneration of trees and nature and other changes that will underpin human, economic and planetary health well into the future.