WHO Bulletin: Strengthening the evidence base for decisions on public health and social measures

29 September, 2021

Extracts below from an editorial in the WHO Bulletin (September). The editorial calls for more investment in research on public health 'to provide actionable and evidence-informed guidance on such measures for decision-makers'. Comment from me below.

CITATION: Bull World Health Organ. 2021 Sep 1; 99(9): 610–610A.

Strengthening the evidence base for decisions on public health and social measures

Delia Enria et al.

Published online 2021 Sep 1. doi: 10.2471/BLT.21.287054

'The introduction of public health and social measures has been one of the key strategies to curb the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)...

'In June 2021, the World Health Organization launched a new multiyear initiative on measuring the effectiveness and the social, health and economic impact of public health and social measures during health emergencies. The initiative aims at strengthening the global evidence base to provide actionable and evidence-informed guidance on such measures for decision-makers. Taking the larger individual and societal impact of these measures into account, the initiative will apply a multidisciplinary and multiple-methods approach promoting randomized trials and observational research.

'Key expected outcomes of the first year include a global evidence review, a global research agenda and a framework to generate, monitor, compare and evaluate research and policies on such measures. As a first step, experts will assess the existing evidence, discuss ethical and methodological challenges when generating knowledge and share lessons learnt from country implementation during a technical consultation in early September 2021...'

COMMENT (Neil): The editorial is right to say there is insufficient investment in public health research. But some of us would argue that this is missing the point. The more urgent issue is the outrageous and wilful failure of many policymakers - including heads of state - to implement the findings of research. As Greta Thunberg says about climate change, we say the same for public health - Listen to the science. Policymakers must be held accountable.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator, neil@hifa.org www.hifa.org