He was leading the Ireland team to fight covid-19, but now he says another pandemic is coming and misinformation will be the key battleground, he writes Michael McHale
youhere will be another pandemic ‘in our lifetimes’, one of the leading figures in Ireland’s response to Covid-19 has said.
Dr Ronan Glynn He said in a recent webinar that the Covid-19 crisis will act as a “tipping point” for accelerating further advances in public health, and that combating misinformation during the pandemic was just as important as preventing the spread of the virus.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that anyone who speaks for certain when it comes to pandemics should be taken with a dose of skepticism,” the former Health Department deputy chief medical officer said in a recent webinar.
“I think that in our lifetimes there will surely be another pandemic, without a doubt. It will almost certainly come from the animal kingdom. But beyond that, I don’t want to predict what it will be like because, despite what some will say, no one predicted Covid when it emerged.”
Dr Glynn was speaking at an online event hosted by the UCD Institute for Discovery as part of their Technology and Impact on Human Health series.
“I think when we look back 10 to 15 years from now on this period, my view is that we will see that the pandemic was the tipping point in accelerating the next great wave of advances in public health,” he told the webinar host. . Professor Patricia Maguire from the Faculty of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences of the UCD.
“And that will be driven by these new technologies: virtual digital technologies, automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital therapies. All of that is coming and it is coming very fast.”
In addition to preparing for these new technologies, Dr. Glynn urged healthcare systems to make better use of data to change the way healthcare is delivered.
He pointed to Irish figures showing the country’s population aged 65 and over has grown by 35 per cent in the last decade, compared to an average increase of 16 per cent across Europe.
“I think there are real reasons for optimism around the data,” he added. “In the aftermath of the pandemic, there’s a global recognition that we can’t keep trying to change the ways we deliver healthcare without better information and using the huge amount of data we have differently.”
In addition to using public health data to plan for the future, he also noted the “real potential” of leveraging secondary information from wearable and sensor technologies “to change the way we improve the health of individuals and populations.”
Looking back on Covid-19, he added that many aspects of a country’s ability to handle a pandemic lie outside of its health system.
“Things like digital literacy are going to become more and more important. Misinformation was a huge part of what we had to deal with globally during the course of the pandemic. I think it’s fair to say that managing the spread of that misinformation was just as important as managing the spread of the virus itself, in terms of maintaining solidarity and keeping the public on board with the message.
“Of course, we must ensure that our hospitals are fit for purpose. But more than anything else, from a healthcare system perspective, we need to make sure that we have a workforce that is adequately trained, that we have biostatistics and modeling capacity, and that our workforce is digitally literate so that when the next one comes ( pandemic), we are ready in a more rounded way.
During the pandemic, Dr. Glynn was one of the most public faces of the national response, spending six months as acting chief medical officer and chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). Last September he joined EY Ireland as a healthcare sector leader, where he focuses on what future healthcare systems will look like.
“What I see is a completely different health ecosystem in the future, which is much more than what we would have traditionally understood as a health system in the last century: the four walls of the public hospital.
“As we wait for five or 10 years to pass, we will see a very significant disruption in terms of what we understand as the healthcare system. That gives me hope and excites me as I look forward.”