Lessons for public health decision making in urgent and uncertain times

Authors: The ECDC Public Health Emergency Team: Suk, J.E., Salajan, A., Tsolova, S., Ciotti, M., Penttinen, P., Noori, T., Nerlander, L., Robesyn, E., Beauté, J., Cenciarelli, O., Melidou, A., Gosner, C., Adlhoch, C., van der Werf, M., Kramarz, P.

This post was originally published by Transforming Society on 24 April 2020, and then it was reproduced in the Evidence & Policy blog.

We have re-issued the article that has already been published by the Evidence & Policy blog. We would like to express gratitude to the kind offer of the editorial board of the Evidence & Policy blog.

You can read the original research in Evidence & Policy [Open Access]: Salajan, A. Tsolova, S. Ciotti, M. and Suk, J. E. (2020) To what extent does evidence support decision making during infectious disease outbreaks? A scoping literature review, Evidence & Policy, DOI: 10.1332/174426420X15808913064302.

(Image credit: zimmytws on Shutterstock)

Accounts of medical professionals performing triage due to the over-burden of healthcare systems during the COVID-19 pandemic are hard to hear. They are a microcosm of dynamics that are occurring globally, where public health authorities and governments are attempting to simultaneously understand and respond to a swiftly moving global pandemic. In this article, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control Public Health Emergency team* offer lessons from recent history for decision making during this difficult time.

The direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 to both public health and economies are substantial. Many of the choices that countries are currently making surrounding public health control measures will involve important social and economic considerations (Anderson RM et al., 2020;395(10228):931-4.1). Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control assessed the relationship between scientific evidence and decision-making from past infectious disease outbreaks (ECDC, 2019), (Salajan A et al., 2020) Although the incidents we reviewed were not nearly as disruptive as COVID-19, they do offer lessons about the management of decision-making that are relevant to the current situation. These are outlined as follows.