The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) is calling for coordinated federal leadership to improve the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic amid the latest resurgence that has resulted in tens of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths of mostly unvaccinated people. This is one of several recommendations to help combat the current pandemic and prepare for future health crises outlined in the AAMC’s The Way Forward Starts Now: Lessons from COVID-19. The new report released today addresses the systemic inadequacies in the nation’s response to COVID-19 and provides specific guidance to best prepare for future public health threats.
“The Biden administration’s recent COVID plans are steps in the right direction, but more work is needed to build resilience against the next pandemic,” said Atul Grover, MD, PhD, executive director of the AAMC Research and Action Institute.
Today’s report, The Way Forward Starts Now, contains 10 recommendations that are intended to provide clear direction for policymakers so the nation can more effectively address our current challenges and prepare for future threats over the next five years.
“The severity of this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic was avoidable,” Grover said. “Federal leadership—with state and local cooperation—could implement many of these recommendations within the next few months and years. The AAMC Research and Action Institute urges policymakers to put specific changes in motion now, such as consulting with industry and academia to ensure that testing is widely and immediately available.”
While the dedicated response to COVID-19 continues, the Institute has identified three themes that must be at the center of improving the nation’s overall pandemic preparedness:
- Coordinated Leadership: The only successful way to coordinate multiple cabinet-level departments and agency actors is via the transparent authority of the White House. This can be accomplished through an individual office (as the administration established during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak) or the use of a coordinating team, but only if its leadership has the President’s authority to fully direct and coordinate all necessary departments and agencies.
- Supply Chain Redundancy: The nation must define which Strategic National Stockpile equipment and supplies are critical to testing, care, and research for a clear and specific time period and have a way to track these assets in real time.
- Sustained Investments and Partnerships in Public Health and Human Resources in Health Care: Policymakers must provide secure, predictable, consistent funding of public health agencies and the health workforce at the federal, state, and local levels.
Among the report’s 10 recommendations are calls for:
- The White House to lead the national pandemic response and coordinate policies, procedures, infrastructure, core materials, and supply chains at the federal level and not rely on a piecemeal approach that varies by locality and region.
- Federal commitment to advance purchases of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, and to engage industry and research universities at the outset of the next public health emergency.
- Federal and state government relaxation of regulatory restrictions on clinical care -- regulatory, licensing, and billing requirements -- during a national emergency.
- Federal expansion and improvement of health insurance, including making it available regardless of employment status.
- Federal and state action to increase the supply and well-being of physicians and other health professionals.
“It is not a matter of if there will be another pandemic, it is a question of when and how well-prepared the nation will be to protect communities against the next national public health emergency,” said David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO. “The Institute has identified essential steps policymakers must begin to take now to help the nation manage the current public health emergency and future health crises.”
Developed by the AAMC Research and Action Institute, this new guidance is a follow-up to The Way Forward on COVID-19: A Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic (published in July 2020), which offered 11 evidence-based actions to reset the trajectory of the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About the AAMC Research and Action Institute
The AAMC Research and Action Institute was established in 2020 to identify new approaches to solve our country’s most pressing health care challenges and improve the health of people everywhere. The institute seeks straightforward, nonpartisan solutions to these complex and often long-standing challenges. It also is committed to digging deeper into the issues, making the connections that can lead to effective changes, and helping policymakers and the public understand and improve our country’s health. For more information, visit aamc.org/institute.
The full report is available online here.