Health and Healthcare Systems

These are the countries best prepared for health emergencies

Soldiers wear protective suits before Brazilian citizens from China's coronavirus-struck Wuhan, arrive at the Air Force base of Anapolis, State of Goias, Brazil, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2YWE9YIYRI

Amidst the coronavirus epidemic, it's worth thinking - How prepared are we? Image: REUTERS/Adriano Machado

David Elliott
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Global Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Global Health

  • The Global Health Security Index lists the countries best prepared for an epidemic or pandemic.
  • National health security is fundamentally weak around the world, it says, and nowhere is fully prepared to handle such an outbreak.
  • Global biological risks are in many cases growing faster than governments and science can keep up.
  • The international community must work together to ensure all countries are prepared to respond to these risks, it says.

Two years ago the director general of the World Health Organization silenced the audience at the World Government Summit with the view that a devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time – and that the world would not be prepared.

Today, with the globe in the grip of coronavirus, those comments seem even more prescient.

The current outbreak is nowhere near the scale of the situation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described to leaders at the Dubai summit, in which as many as 100 million people could die. But it has brought one question into sharp focus: just how prepared are we for a pandemic?

Have you read?

Not enough, according to the Global Health Security Index, a report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Economist Intelligence Unit released in October 2019.

The 195-country study finds national health security to be “fundamentally weak” around the world. No nation is fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic, it says.

Which countries are best prepared?

The report uses public information to assess each country’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies. The index measures countries’ capabilities from 0-100, with 100 representing the highest level of preparedness.

The Countries Best Prepared To Deal With A Pandemic
How countries around the world rank when it comes to dealing with a pandemic Image: Statista

On this scale, the US is the “most prepared” nation (scoring 83.5), with the UK (77.9), the Netherlands (75.6), Australia (75.5) and Canada (75.3) behind it. Thailand and South Korea are the only countries outside of the West that rank in this category.

Much of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and Central and South America are described as “more prepared,” with scores between 66 and 34.3, while the majority of countries ranked “least prepared” are in Africa. North Korea (17.5), Somalia (16.6) and Equatorial Guinea (16.2) are listed in the index's bottom three.

China – which is at the centre of the recent coronavirus outbreak – is in 51st place, scoring 48.2.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about epidemics?

What needs to be done?

Collectively, international preparedness is “very weak.” The index’s average overall score is 40.2, which rises to 51.9 for high-income countries – a situation the report describes as alarming.

So what can be done? The report emphasizes that health security is a collective responsibility.

It recommends governments commit to action to address health security risks, that every country’s health security capacity should be measured regularly and transparently, and that the international community works together to tackle biological threats, with a focus on financing and emergency response.

This kind of action will become even more necessary. The number and diversity of epidemic events has increased over the past 30 years, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Health Security: Epidemics Readiness Accelerator.

The trend is expected to intensify. As globalization brings increasing trade, travel and population density, and as problems such as deforestation and climate change grow, we enter a new era in the risk of epidemic events, it says.

Stronger, unified responses to these threats – such as that displayed by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations when it moved to rapidly form partnerships to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus – will be of vital importance.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Gender and health equity will only come with universal access to eye health – here's why

Dr. Princess Ifeoma Ike

May 24, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum