July 28, 2022
SVP, Policy and Strategic Planning, Healthcare Distribution Alliance
Since it began in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on and threatened the resiliency of domestic and global healthcare. The key to managing the remainder of this pandemic — and preparing for future health crises — is shoring up public health resilience through strategic partnerships.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 11th Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, healthcare and public health professionals explained how the government and private sector can work together to ensure greater preparedness moving forward.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Forced Changes to Global Healthcare Supply Chains
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a new set of global challenges. Impacting everything from healthcare to the supply chain, the pandemic has shown the importance of working together through public-private partnerships to get through tough times.
“We went back as an organization and started thinking about the fragility of the supply chain and what could be done,” David Senior, the Senior Vice President of Market Economics at AmerisourceBergen, said. “What we started recognizing was this was too big for one company, or even industry, to solve on its own. That was sort of our jump-off point to thinking about public-private partnerships.”
Adaptability plays a large part in how the world is able to handle drastic and unprecedented changes. Chris Brown, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Emergency Operations at the CDC's Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR), emphasized the need to be ready for the unexpected.
“I think it was also just a really good learning opportunity for us in government,” Brown said. “What that means for the future … [is] we have to be ready for a true all-hazards posture, where we may not quite understand what's coming.”
Health Equity Issues Must Be Addressed Before They Get Worse
Tom Cotter, Executive Director at Healthcare Ready, said his biggest concern throughout the pandemic has been health equity.
“How are we going to reach the people who are hardest to reach and meet them where they are?” he said. “This continues to be a struggle. We have a whole population in the country that is willing, but unvaccinated because there still are access issues.”
Cotter emphasized the importance of addressing issues before they get worse, such as the numerous diseases coming to the forefront.
“We’ve got to … make sure that that we're in a good shape addressing what is going on now — as you say, [there are] six concurrent and compounding disease outbreaks, in addition to our natural disasters,” Cotter said.
Public Health Suffers From Underfunding and Lack of Resources
Looking to the future, Richard H. Hughes, IV, a member of the law firm Epstein, Becker & Green, believes that vaccine accessibility and distribution need to be revisited.
“[Vaccines] need to continue to be very accessible to patients, but we need to really tweak how we're delivering those [and] how we're distributing those products,” Hughes said.
Gaps in public health have led to underfunding and a lack of resources, which can be a major hindrance when resolving issues in the future.
“Public health is chronically underfunded,” said Hughes. “State and local public health — they're on the front lines of responding to all of those outbreaks. And because of the COVID-19 response, they haven't been able to give as much attention to routine vaccination, which is leading to some of these outbreaks.”
“We need to take some of the load off of state and local public health and involve traditional private actors who have the know-how and can help,” Hughes added.