When experts met online at the last Horasis Asia Meeting to discuss the upcoming challenges and opportunities of our modern world, it was obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic would play a predominant role in the debates. We had just heard of the Omicron variant. How to transform business and the way we operate globally was obviously at the centre of all discussions. How one can use a public value approach when dealing with the pandemic? We asked Kerri Cummings, CEO of MINDBAR® and Mindfulness Expert who participated in the Horasis Asia Meeting, to share her thoughts we us. We’re sharing here her blog to feed your discussions:

Predict, Detect, Prevent

“Predict, Detect, and Prevent: How can we predict new potential pandemics? How can we detect new viruses early on? And how can we prevent a novel virus from spreading across the earth and shutting us down? It seems, nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we still haven’t found an answer to these questions. Despite global rollouts of several approved vaccines, nationwide lockdowns, mask mandates or even – in some countries – herd immunity efforts, the pandemic is entering its fourth wave with no end in sight. We have seen virologists, epidemiologists, and other experts recommending quite varied and often contrary recommendations and policies to protect the public and battle the virus.

The WHO (World Health Organization) has recently implemented a new global hub based in Berlin, Germany. This epidemic intelligence ecosystem aims to develop better data, analytics and decisions in order to better predict, detect and prevent potential pandemics in the future. The Implementation Accelerator, a part of this new WHO hub, will work with communities at the local, regional, national and global levels to identify and prioritise future needs and gaps in achieving public health goals.

Much of the media reports about the low vaccination rates in developing or less developed countries due to lack of supply, logistical, distribution, and funding issues. Strangely, some of the most developed countries in the world have lagging vaccination rates as well. The USA has a mere 60.7% of its population vaccinated. Germany’s vaccination rate has stagnated somewhere around 69.5%. Obviously, this has nothing to do with supply or funding. After all, Germany and the USA are two of the major producers of the vaccines. So why are they lagging?

Emotional reaction to vaccination

It is clear that, in addition to improving early detection, prediction, research and implementation efforts, there is another gap that is currently contributing to keeping the current pandemic going: the Compliance gap. On one end of the spectrum there are those who are exceedingly terrified of the virus and what it might do to them and their loved ones. They voluntarily shut themselves inside their homes and rarely came out. They avoided all contact with others and even refused to let their children go outside and play with their friends at the expense of their mental health.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who don’t believe there is a pandemic, chalking it up to fake news at worst, sensationalistic mass hysteria at best. They refuse to be vaccinated because they do not “believe” in the virus, as if it were some kind of unproven GOD that you could choose to believe in or not. And then there are all of those somewhere in the middle who see that there is indeed a virus, that it can be dangerous, and that the vaccine is the best way to get back to so-called normalcy. Among this group, there are also those who fear the short- and long-term side effects of the vaccine, and thus have held off on getting vaccinated.

Emotions and confusion

The world’s population is understandably, well, confused. This confusion has created a notable roadblock in controlling the virus, despite globally and nationally coordinated efforts. It is a well-known fact in sales: Confused people do not make decisions. Where is the confusion and division of compliance coming from? It based on fear: individual fears, misinformation and inconsistent information. Social media has largely contributed to this with its unabashed bombardment of videos and information many of which have not been edited, fact-checked and, quite frankly, faked in order to instil fear and confusion in people.

People do not need MORE information about the pandemic measures, virus, and vaccines; they need more consistent, focused and clear information about these. 

Even if we were able to put state-of-the-art early detection methods in place, streamlined supply chain processes for the fair and efficient distribution of vaccines around the world, we will not get any pandemic under control if there is no compliance. If we overlook a focus on the psychology of the pandemic, on the psychology of compliance, we will miss the mark.

The psychology of compliance

Compliance depends on knowledge and fear and, interestingly, non-compliance does as well. There is the fear of punishment for non-compliance, the fear of becoming sick, and the fear of authority and loss of personal control. One way to gain compliance with safety measures or vaccinations is through sanctions as well as through fanning fears. Unfortunately fear and anxiety is also making us sick, and the long-term effects of these fears is still unclear. So, how can we gain compliance without extreme restrictions and without creating unnecessary fear? Education and building trust in the facts is the answer.

Achieving a high compliance rate shouldn’t be about politics, governmental force, or making people terrified of each other. Educating people about science, about the facts is essential. The biggest stakeholders in the chain are the most invisible ones: the people. If they do not believe or understand the science behind the virus, pandemic or vaccinations, nothing will help. We need to educate the general population, with consistent, science-based information. We need to get a grip on social media that spreads misinformation, propaganda and fake news, fuelling the fire for an overriding distrust of the press and media at large. This educational “campaign” needs to be designed independent of socio-economic status, culture, religion, education or even literacy. It is time to find ways to make science more approachable, more accessible and more understandable to non-scientists.

Address the knowledge gap

This issue extends far beyond managing a pandemic with patchwork-like informational campaigns. The algorithms of social media platforms show people one-sided slants on the truth, polarising society into extremes. We need a global think tank of government officials, businesses, scientists, researchers, and non-profit organisations to champion real science-backed facts and find ways to bring it to the global population so that it is understandable and accessible to anyone regardless of culture, political leanings, socio-economic or demographic factors.

It is possible to achieve compliance without excessive fear and anxiety, as it equally possible to achieve compliance without backlash from large parts of the population that feel their personal freedoms have been taken away. Compliance only works when people are informed. People can only be truly informed and educated when they trust in the information being provided. Trust can only be done through consistency across media channels, open and transparent communication from large stakeholders.

Trust and consistent information

If people were able to understand not just the basic “why” of vaccines and other measures that have been imposed on societies around the world, but consistently understood the mechanisms, the research that has been carried out and the processes of getting the vaccines to market in a safe way, they would feel like they can make their own personal decision about complying with proposed measures. If businesses, employers and corporations as well as non-profit organisations and governmental agencies were all on the same page, with the same, consistent information, there would be less confusion, and more real, conscious compliance where it matters the most.”

Are you interested in public value creation around the world? Are you looking for a community of like-minded? Do send your blog/s and we’ll be happy to distribute your thoughts in our network!

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