The Cost of Inaction – The Importance of Pandemic Prevention at the Source

The Alliance Secretariat hosted the side event “The Cost of Inaction – The Importance of Pandemic Prevention at the Source”, on Saturday 16th October at the World Health Summit 2022 in Berlin. The panelists represented various spheres within a One Health approach, emphasizing on a holistic perspective to bolster pandemic prevention at the source to reduce costs and provide co-benefits to climate and biodiversity.  

You may click on the following link to watch the recorded session on YouTube: 

WS 06 – The Cost of Inaction – The Importance of Pandemic Prevention at the Source – YouTube 

Prof. Andy Dobson, Dr. Catherine Machalaba and Dr. Eckart v. Hirschhausen at the World Health Summit.
About the panelists: 

Prof. Dr. Andrew Dobson 

Princeton University | Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology | Professor | United States of America 

Jochen Flasbarth 

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) | State Secretary | Germany 

Dr. Catherine Machalaba 

EcoHealth Alliance | Senior Policy Advisor and Senior Scientist | United States of America 

Dr. María Neira 

World Health Organization (WHO) | Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health | Director 

Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen 

Physician, Science Journalist, Founder of Healthy Planet – Healthy People Foundation and World Health Summit Ambassador | Germany 

Dr. María Neira and Jochen Flasbarth at World Health Summit 2022, Berlin, Germany & Digital, October 16-18, 2022. Photo: World Health Summit
About the event: 

Scientists calculate the cost of preventing further pandemics – via forest protection and improved wildlife trade regulation – over the next decade would amount to just 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by COVID-19. Such prevention strategies would also come with considerable co-benefits for climate and biodiversity. Research shows the proportion of pathogens crossing from one stage to the next, from pre-emergence to pandemic stage decreases as the costs for stopping those increases. In this inverse correlation: the earlier we prevent, the more cost-efficient it is. 

Yet attention is currently focused on later-stage prevention, preparedness and response. According to WHO’s Cristina Romanelli, only 3% of current efforts to stop future pandemics goes to primary prevention (pre-spillover), while the remaining 97% is invested in secondary prevention and preparedness measures. 

In the wake of immediate reactions to COVID-19 – most of which were taken under immense pressure to respond to and manage an ongoing crisis – many key actors, are now contemplating how to avoid and handle possible future pandemics more intelligently, efficiently and effectively. Considering this challenge, we ask: How can lessons learned from COVID-19 and primary prevention take a more prominent role in global responses to reduce the risk of future pandemics? What would such a policy path look like? And how might it incorporate regulations in line with WHO’s Manifesto (“Prescriptions for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19”) that recognize the incredible opportunity for investments contributing to solving the triple, intersecting crises of health, climate and biodiversity? 

Screening review: “Breaking Boundaries – the Science of our Planet” with J. Rockström

Documentary screening review with Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Germany and Tanja Gönner, Chair of the Management Board of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). 

The Earth’s boundaries have already been pushed far beyond stable living conditions. Still, there is room for cautious optimism. But the window for action is closing rapidly.  

During the film screening of the acclaimed documentary “Breaking Boundaries – the science of our Planet” at the GIZ Berlin Representation, participants learned about planetary boundaries which indicate the safe operating space for humanity.  

Prof. Johan Rockström introduced the concept of planetary boundaries in 2009. In the movie, he defines 9 parameters, including climate change, water and land use, as boundaries that represent crucial tipping points on which humanity’s existence depends. The documentary approaches the complex topic through a creative way with touching images and stories.  

After the film screening, the on-site and online participants had the chance to ask questions to both panelists, followed by a lively discussion facilitated by Maike Voss, Director of the Center for Planetary Health Policy. Prof. Rockström stressed that the global community cannot wait for a new era to arise. The current economic paradigm needs to be changed because it does not respond to the needs of a global transition towards sustainability within a safe operating space.  Furthermore, it is of utmost importance to integrate local communities and their knowledge into the transition to a sustainable future for the planet and all living beings. The knowledge required is already there, but it urgently needs to be translated into policies and actions. Tanja Gönner pointed out during her input the active role of GIZ and the Alliance to contribute to this goal.  

With the film screening, the Alliance aimed to sensitize various audiences for the concept of planetary boundaries and to amplify the discourse on the environmental limits of our planet and translating science into action. 

For further insights please have a look at the video documentation: