Prof. Dr. Eva Rehfuess | Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Maike Voss | German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
Prof. Dr. Yvonne Doyle | Public Health England
Frode Forland | Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Dr. Fernando Simón | Ministry of Health Spain
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan | World Health Organization (WHO)
The discussions flowed freely, guided by GLOHRA Steering Committee members Eva Rehfuess and Maike Voss. Our speaker panel represented a range of health institutes and exchanged their experiences of decision making amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They noted the challenges of implementing policy in absence of complete evidence, the importance of behavioral in addition to epidemiological insights, and the benefits of shared experience and collaboration (among both health scientists and policy makers).
Participants were granted insights into concrete decision-making processes when, for example, Mr. Forland described Norway's approach involving intense exchange between three major institutions and eloborated on newly established methods for evaluating early-stage research. Dr. Swaminathan reflected on the actions of the WHO and emphasized the importance of exchange among countries from the six WHO regions, especially in the early stages of the pandemic. She also voiced concerns about the insidious nature of the so-called "infodemic". Final reflections led some speakers to speculate that the investment in primary health care may help to explain better-than-expected outcomes in some lower income countries and noted, as ever, the importance of functioning health systems.