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Margaret Chan Urges People to Overcome Complacency in the Face of Infectious Disease

On March 15 (Beijing time), Dr. Margaret Chan, the Dean of Vanke School of Public Health of Tsinghua University and the Emeritus Director-General of the World Health Organization, published an article in Nature Medicine, urging people to overcome complacency confronting communicable disease. By sharing her experience of effectively responding to epidemics and pandemics, Dr. Chan emphasizes that those “who do not learn from past pandemics are condemned to repeat them”.

Cover of Nature Medicine, March 2021

Source of Image: the official website of Nature Medicine

This article reminds us that health is fundamental to the “happiness, harmonious relations and security of all peoples”. National and global leaders must put health on a top position on the political agenda.

l Building Trust

By rethinking the devastating consequences of a deficit in trust, Dr. Chan strengthens the importance of building trust in fighting against pandemics. It states that “building trust involves responsible leadership, empowering communities, engaging with civil society and encouraging health literacy”.

l With broader view and long-term perspectives

Dr. Chan underlines that “none are safe until all are safe”. Therefore, people who work in public health must obtain broader understanding of health security beyond infectious diseases. Achieving health security requires the adoption of “one health” approach and a firm commitment to solidarity and equity.

The article also states that a need for a long-term perspective could not be neglected. According to Dr. Chan, health security requires for “long-term political commitment with sustained financing for investment in systems that are agile, flexible and responsive and evolve rapidly with new technologies and new threats”.

l Education as a centre

Education is crucial in building a stronger, more sustainable and more-resilient public-health security systems. Dr. Chan states, Vanke School of Public Health in Tsinghua University is exploring new models of education and training to cultivate public health professionals with the vision and capabilities to conduct international cooperation, and to motivate interdisciplinary research and innovation for health protection. The School also actively promotes collaborations with government departments, communities, non-governmental organizations and businesses, and strives to translate research results into viable health policies and health solutions.

Dr. Chan concludes the article by underscoring the overwhelming consequences of complacency in the face of infectious disease, and calling for immediate actions to implement health policies and solutions.

Further information

Dr. Chan’s article “Overcoming complacency in the face of infectious disease” was published in Nature Medicine in March 2021. It can be accessed at the following link: