Analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons towards a more effective response to public health emergencies

Yibeltal Assefa, Charles F Gilks, Simon Reid, Remco van de Pas, Dereje Gedle Gete, Wim Van Damme

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BACKGROUND: The pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a timely reminder of the nature and impact of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern. As of 12 January 2022, there were over 314 million cases and over 5.5 million deaths notified since the start of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic takes variable shapes and forms, in terms of cases and deaths, in different regions and countries of the world. The objective of this study is to analyse the variable expression of COVID-19 pandemic so that lessons can be learned towards an effective public health emergency response.

METHODS: We conducted a mixed-methods study to understand the heterogeneity of cases and deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Correlation analysis and scatter plot were employed for the quantitative data. We used Spearman's correlation analysis to determine relationship strength between cases and deaths and socio-economic and health systems. We organized qualitative information from the literature and conducted a thematic analysis to recognize patterns of cases and deaths and explain the findings from the quantitative data.

RESULTS: We have found that regions and countries with high human development index have higher cases and deaths per million population due to COVID-19. This is due to international connectedness and mobility of their population related to trade and tourism, and their vulnerability related to older populations and higher rates of non-communicable diseases. We have also identified that the burden of the pandemic is also variable among high- and middle-income countries due to differences in the governance of the pandemic, fragmentation of health systems, and socio-economic inequities.

CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that every country remains vulnerable to public health emergencies. The aspiration towards a healthier and safer society requires that countries develop and implement a coherent and context-specific national strategy, improve governance of public health emergencies, build the capacity of their (public) health systems, minimize fragmentation, and tackle upstream structural issues, including socio-economic inequities. This is possible through a primary health care approach, which ensures provision of universal and equitable promotive, preventive and curative services, through whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalGlobalization and Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Pandemics
  • Epidemics
  • COVID-19
  • Heterogeneity
  • Governance
  • Equity
  • CARE


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