The role of public health in The comprehensive power of state equation after the pandemic

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The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic emphasized the importance of public health in the comprehensive power equation of states‭, ‬especially as it clearly revealed that countries with strong health systems are capable of dealing with emergency health crises and disasters‭. ‬Public health‭ ‬can maintain the cohesion and internal stability of the state‭, ‬which in turn is translated into weightiness and political influence in the international arena‭.‬

The concept of the comprehensive power of a state refers to the elements or criteria that represent public resources used to boost its power‭, ‬such as geographical location‭, ‬human power‭, ‬economic resources‭, ‬political and diplomatic weight‭, ‬armed forces‭, ‬and‭ ‬scientific and technological possibilities‭. ‬This means that the comprehensive power of any state is the sum of what it possesses of these resources combined‭, ‬and how they are employed effectively and efficiently to enhance its position on the international arena‭.‬

The concept of comprehensive power has witnessed fundamental transformations over the past decades‭. ‬During the‭ ‬“Cold War”‭ ‬era‭, ‬the focus was mainly on military force as the core of the comprehensive power of states‭. ‬If any state to succeed in enhancing their national security‭, ‬it must possess strong military forces and sufficient deterrent factors against its opponents‭. ‬But‭,‬‭ ‬this perception was proven wrong and new theories emerged after the end of the Cold War‭, ‬dealing with the comprehensive power of states from a comprehensive strategic point of view‭, ‬that takes into account other aspects of power‭: ‬economic‭, ‬political‭, ‬social and technological‭. ‬This concept has developed in the past few years to add elements of soft power‭, ‬as culture‭, ‬media and human values to the concept of comprehensive power of states‭. ‬

‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬and the shift in the comprehensive power concept

It is no exaggeration that the emergence of the Corona virus‭; ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019‭, ‬and its transmission to the whole world‭, ‬constituted‭, ‬and continues to do‭, ‬the most serious health crisis facing humanity in contemporary history‭. ‬The outbreak of the virus raised many essential questions‭, ‬related to the concept of the comprehensive power of states and the criteria for its evaluation‭, ‬especially after this pandemic revealed the weakness of the health systems in many advanced industrial countries‭, ‬showing their inability to provide health care‭ ‬to their citizens in the first months of the pandemic’s emergence‭. ‬On the other hand‭, ‬some countries‭, ‬not classified developed‭, ‬were able to deal with this pandemic effectively‭. ‬They‭ ‬succeeded in providing an umbrella of advanced health care for their peoples‭, ‬because of their ability to employ the health systems efficiently‭, ‬either through increasing the number of tests‭, ‬or by applying advanced systems to track the infected cases and‭ ‬enforce quarantine‭. ‬As a result of this success‭, ‬they were able to contain the virus and mitigate its various repercussions‭. ‬

The serious repercussions of the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic have prompted many countries to rearrange their priorities and evaluate their comprehensive power factors‭. ‬They started to take health aspects into account‭; ‬such as a strong health infrastructure of advanced hospitals‭, ‬a strong medical sector‭, ‬human resources‭, ‬especially qualified doctors and nurses‭, ‬as well as the availability of medical supplies‭, ‬such as masks‭, ‬respirators‭, ‬etc‭. ‬These preparations are considered now as the most important factors of comprehensive power‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬the concept of‭ ‬“White Army”‭, ‬in reference to the medical and health teams who are confronting this pandemic on the front lines‭, ‬has become one of the main‭ ‬concepts providing evidence of how investing in the human aspect of the health sector is important‭.‬

The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has confirmed the importance of the public health for peoples‭, ‬as the most important factors affecting the comprehensive power equation of states‭. ‬The‭ ‬“Washington Post”‭ ‬published a significant article on the seventh of April 2020‭, ‬in which the writer concluded that‭: ‬“Because of this pandemic‭, ‬the traditional assumptions about power that dominated the 20th and early 21st centuries could become‭ ‬undone‭. ‬Instead‭, ‬a new age of power‭ ‬may emerge in which far different state capacities‭, ‬resources and priorities will be needed to compete on the world stage and meet the new set of international challenges‮…‬‭. ‬modern governments should regulate and dominate their populations by vaccinating‭, ‬treating‭, ‬nourishing their peoples”‭.‬

According to the article‭, ‬the United States still has the largest economy‭, ‬the strongest army‭, ‬and retains the world’s leading currency‭ (‬the dollar‭), ‬which is to say it leads the world in so-called hard power‭, ‬but the coronavirus has already exposed that it lags far behind in terms of its demographic health‭. ‬Public health system is unequal and severely underfunded‭, ‬which‭ ‬imposes grave danger on‭  ‬US national security if these problems are not treated‭.‬

The impact of the pandemic

The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has enhanced the role of public health for the peoples‭. ‬It has become among the most important criteria to measure the‭ ‬comprehensive power of states‭. ‬That is reflected in the following aspects‭:‬

1 -‭ ‬Focus on Peoples‭’ ‬“health security”‭:‬‭ ‬As it is one of the most important ingredients of the comprehensive power of the states‭, ‬and the most important security pillar‭, ‬clear strategies to develop the health systems are being adopted all over the world‭, ‬especially after the massive destruction‭ ‬of the economic and human systems globally‭, ‬as a result of the coronavirus‭. ‬Many studies expect that Western countries‭, ‬affected‭ ‬by the pandemic‭, ‬will consider health security as a top priority on their agendas again‭. ‬It will get the same level of attention paid to technology and defensive security‭, ‬especially after the existing health systems in rich countries have proved their inability to deal immediately and effectively in containing pandemics similar to the coronavirus‭.‬

Many countries have already begun to pay exceptional attention to developing their health policies‭, ‬whether through increasing investment in conducting scientific research to invent vaccines for various diseases‭, ‬or by increasing the proportion of budgets‭ ‬allocated to the health sector in public budgets‭, ‬or through developing and providing hospitals‭, ‬as well as caring for medical sector‭; ‬being at the core of the comprehensive national security of the states and communities‭.‬

At the same time‭, ‬epidemics and viruses are seen now as one of the most dangerous threatening to the national security of the states‭.‬

In a clear reference to the danger of viruses and epidemics to societies and states security‭, ‬the American‭ ‬“Foreign Affairs”‭ ‬Journal published an article in March 2020‭, ‬titled‭: ‬“Pandemic Disease Is a Threat to National Security Washington Should Treat It Like One”‭. ‬

2‭ – ‬New tasks for‭ ‬“Health Intelligence”‭:‬‭  ‬The‭ ‬“‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has prompted many countries to reconsider the tasks of the security and intelligence services‭, ‬as a result to the new‭ ‬order the pandemic created‭. ‬Talk is rising in a remarkable manner about the importance of establishing specialized‭ ‬“Health Intelligence”‭; ‬to maintain the health security of states and their citizens‭, ‬through examining health conditions‭, ‬searching for biological threats‭, ‬and analyzing all the information obtained‭, ‬whether the source was digital media platforms‭, ‬social media‭, ‬or by using key‭ ‬words used on the internet‭, ‬etc‭. ‬They have to analyze the content of these information to get any indication of epidemic spread‭ ‬or any health crisis emerging anywhere‭. ‬Then‭, ‬they are to inform the concerned authorities‭, ‬which in turn‭, ‬take the necessary proactive measures to deal with the situation‭. 

The escalating talk about the importance of having specialized‭ ‬“health intelligence”‭ ‬is due in part to the success of German intelligence in obtaining advance information about the coronavirus at the beginning of‭ ‬its spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan‭. ‬It had reports talking about the spread of the epidemic in many Chinese cities‭, ‬and obtained details about the virus and its symptoms‭, ‬then informed the health institutions in Germany two weeks before announcing the spread of the virus‭. ‬Consequently‭, ‬German authorities moved quickly to take precautionary and preventive measures that have had the greatest impact in strengthening their capacity to cope with the pandemic‭, ‬compared to many European countries‭, ‬that have‭ ‬been affected significantly‭.‬

3‭ – ‬Rehabilitation of the‭ ‬“White Army”‭:‬‭ ‬The name given to the medical teams of doctors and nurses who responded to the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic‭, ‬as the‭ ‬“White Army”‭, ‬did not come out of nowhere‭. ‬Rather‭, ‬it was the result of the unprecedented efforts they made‭, ‬and are still making‭, ‬to counter this pandemic‭, ‬that is considered as global challenge‭. ‬They are on first lines‭  ‬like soldiers fighting on a battlefields‭, ‬especially as they face an invisible and rapidly mutating virus‭, ‬which‭  ‬caused growing global confusion‭. ‬

The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has brought the‭ ‬“White Army”‭ ‬into account‭, ‬and countries all over the world are competing to attract physicians and nurses‭, ‬because they are the cornerstone‭ ‬of any sophisticated health system‭, ‬in order to address cross-border epidemics and viruses‭. ‬In March 2020‭, ‬United States announced‭: ‬“providing facilities regarding work and visit visas to its territories‭, ‬for foreigners working in the health sector‭, ‬as part of‭ ‬its efforts to confront the outbreak of the emerging coronavirus”‭. ‬The US authorities singled out those who work in the field of combating the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic‭.‬

At the same time‭, ‬some German states called on immigrant doctors to return quickly‭, ‬and‭ ‬“took the necessary measures to register them‭, ‬in order to confront the pandemic”‭. ‬

4 -‭ ‬Increasing demands for spending on global health‭:‬‭ ‬The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic led to escalating demands to increase investments directed to the World Health Organization‭. ‬The Director-General of the World Health Organization‭, ‬Dr‭ ‬“Tedros Adhanom”‭, ‬on the occasion of World Health Day in the seventh of April 2021‭, ‬called countries all over the world to‭ ‬“invest in health as a motor of development‭. ‬It is vital to invest in strengthening health services and to remove the barriers that prevent so many people from using them‭, ‬so more people have the chance to live healthy lives”‭. ‬He asserted the importance of‭ ‬“investing in primary healthcare‭, ‬as more than half the world’s population still lack access to”‭. ‬Adhanom called for bridging the global deficit of 18‭ ‬million health workers needed to achieve the hedging of overall health by‭ ‬2030‭, ‬creating at least 10‭ ‬million additional full-time job‭, ‬and building safe‭, ‬healthy‭, ‬inclusive neighbourhoods”‭. ‬He also called for‭ ‬“Strengthening data and information systems across the health sector by the significant vectors of age‭, ‬race and ethnicity‭, ‬sex‭, ‬wealth‭, ‬education‭, ‬and place of residence”‭, ‬to identify and address inequality‭. ‬The increasing demands for spending on global health and investing in aspects of comprehensive health care is no longer a necessity only to combat the spread of viruses and epidemics‭, ‬but it has its great developmental‭ ‬and social return as well‭, ‬as it contributes to strengthening the comprehensive power of states‭, ‬and helps them to deal with emergency health crises efficiently and effectively‭.‬

5 -‭ ‬Developing crises and health early warning systems‭:‬‭ ‬One of the repercussions of the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has been the increasing demands for the need to work on developing the system of health crises and disasters globally‭,‬‭ ‬to be able not only to deal with global health crises and pandemics that cross borders‭, ‬but also to predict them in advance‭, ‬and take proactive measures to confront them‭.‬

In fact‭, ‬setting health early warning systems has become an urgent need‭, ‬especially in light of expectations that the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic will not be the last‭, ‬and that the world may witness such crises or diseases in the future‭. ‬This requires proactive measures from this very moment‭, ‬by collecting information about any potential developing diseases and viruses‭, ‬and presenting them‭ ‬in a timely manner to the relevant agencies and health authorities in order to take the necessary measures to confront them and‭ ‬limit their effect‭. ‬The importance of health early warning systems lies mainly in the fact that they play a key role in the rapid assessment of epidemics‭, ‬that is providing optimal response to public health threats‭, ‬and alerting decision makers to take the necessary measures in a timely manner to prevent the spread of the epidemics and reduce their negative effect consequently‭. ‬

Public health‭.. ‬the most important criteria for assessing the comprehensive power of states‭ ‬

The prevailing trend in security and defense studies before the emergence of‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬at the end of 2019‭ ‬was to underestimate the importance of public health in relation to the comprehensive power equation of states‭, ‬as well as its impact on their foreign policy‭. ‬This pandemic has clearly revealed that public health is not separated from comprehensive power of the state‭, ‬but it is considered as most important factors serving the national interest of states at home‭ ‬and adding to their political weight internationally‭. ‬Public health and its associated indicators have turned to be a standard key to calculate the comprehensive power of states‭, ‬to the extent that some countries have made use of what is called‭ ‬“health diplomacy”‭, ‬to enhance their political influence and international prestige‭, ‬depending on successes they have achieved in dealing with the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic‭. ‬China comes first after offering itself as a model to follow‭; ‬politically‭, ‬economically and socially‭.‬

At the same time‭, ‬the pandemic has led many countries to reconsider their health policies to keep pace with the world after‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭. ‬Now‭, ‬They include health aspects within the security and defense policies‭, ‬in terms of recognizing that the strengthening comprehensive power requires taking into account working on military‭, ‬economic‭, ‬cultural‭, ‬social‭, ‬environmental and health tracks in‭ ‬parallel‭. ‬

There has become an international growing trend to recognize the importance of developing the public health of peoples‭, ‬being an‭ ‬investment in the comprehensive power of the state and national security protection‭. ‬For example‭, ‬the United States‭, ‬under the‭ ‬administration of President‭, ‬“‭ ‬Joe Biden”‭, ‬considered the development of the health system and to addressing the‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic as a top priority‭. ‬This was demonstrated by the American‭ ‬“Interim Strategy Guidance”‭, ‬issued in March 2021‭. ‬It clearly confirmed that health pandemics are among the‭ ‬“greatest threats”‭ ‬facing the United States and the world in general‭. ‬Indeed‭, ‬the Biden‭  ‬administration revealed‭, ‬in May 2021‭, ‬an investment of 7‭.‬4‭ ‬billion American dollars from the US bailout package to hire workers in the field of public health to combat‭ ‬“Covid‭ -‬19”‭ ‬and prepare for public health future challenges‭. ‬

In the same context‭, ‬the United Kingdom abolished the British Public Health Authority‭, ‬the body that the British were proud of as the main regulator of everything related to health aspects in the country‭, ‬and established a new body‭, ‬whose role is focused on health preventive aspects‭, ‬and is intended to prevent any external health threats targeting the United Kingdom‭.‬

The‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬pandemic has shown the importance of public health in the comprehensive power equation for states‭. ‬It also revealed investing in and improving the healthcare system may outweigh other aspects of power‭, ‬in the long run‭. ‬Public health‭, ‬with its various indicators‭, ‬represents a criterion for the power of the state and its ability to maximize benefit of different resources in enhancing its international status‭. ‬The most clear evident is the competition for producing‭ ‬“Covid-19”‭ ‬vaccines‭. ‬In part‭, ‬the vaccine turned to be a competition between the major powers on influence and scientific and technological prestige‭. ‬That’s way the Russian President‭ ‬“Vladimir Putin”‭, ‬described‭, ‬in May 2021‭, ‬“Sputnik”‭ ‬vaccine saying‭: ‬“It can be relied upon‭, ‬such as Kalashnikov rifles”‭; ‬a type of weapons dating back to the former Soviet Union era‭, ‬and still used widely today‭.‬

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