Success stories

To keep our spirits high

I always love hearing a successful public health story. I know this helps my colleagues and I (and I hope everyone) keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

Countries, like New Zealand, Vietnam, and South Korea, have been successful at fighting COVID19. I described their particular stories before HERE (New Zealand), HERE (Vietnam), or HERE (South Korea). They are uplifting stories about how public health SHOULD work when supported by communities and governments.

Typically, it’s really difficult for epidemiologists to compare health outcomes across countries. This is because countries are SO different: culture, population and land size, density, politics, infrastructure, geography, environmental exposures, and even different genetics. But recently, I came across the Lowy Institute COVID Performance Index.

Briefly, they assigned each country a number to compare how countries are doing relative to each other. The number is an average based on: confirmed cases; confirmed deaths; cases per 1 M; deaths per 1 M; confirmed cases as a proportion of tests; and tests per thousand people. Each country has one number over time. Collectively, the numbers point to how well or poorly countries have managed the pandemic. It’s not perfect, but the most comprehensive comparison I’ve seen yet.

Here are some interesting patterns…

Regions. Even though the pandemic originated in China, Asian countries have been most successful at containing the pandemic. This is due to their experience with past epidemics (like SARS and MERS) in which they learned a lot of lessons. Europe was doing fantastic (probably due to their strict, coordinated response), but then recently dived down (probably driven by the new variant B.1.1.7). North and South America have always done relatively poorly.

Political systems also seem to have an impact on COVID19 response. At least in the beginning of the pandemic. Today, it looks like everyone is about equal.

Population size has certainly had an impact on COVID19 response. And is probably the most consistent indicator of success. Small countries have always fared better, followed by medium sized countries. Large countries (in terms of population) have consistently done poorly. This makes sense though: Larger countries have a lot more people to contain transmission and to convince to adhere to public health measures.

Economic development is a really interesting one. Developing countries are just not that different than advanced countries, at least today. I’m not entirely convinced of this though, as this index is dependent on the ability to report cases, deaths, and tests in a systematic and accurate way. Developing countries just don’t have the same infrastructures as more advanced countries. Interesting nonetheless.

Here are some specific countries you may be interested in comparing. Australia and the U.K. have been a rollercoaster. The U.S. has had a consistency poor response (I don’t think this surprises anyone). It will be very interesting to see whether the US line changes due to the recent political shift (and thus, change in priorities). A meaningful change will take a while to see, though.

And, if you’re curious, these are the top ranked countries…

And here are the bottom ranked countries…

I highly recommend playing around this with site and following it over time as responses shift due to the new variants and changing governments. You can find the site HERE.

Love, YLE