March 2021

{Photo credit: Misa Rahantason/MSH} Photo credit: Misa Rahantason/MSH

This story was originally published by STAT.

The bubonic plague — also known as the Black Death — killed as many as 200 million people in the mid-14th century, about one-third of the population of Europe. It was the deadliest epidemic in history, yet it gave birth to public health initiatives that survive today, including quarantines and checkpoints to stop the spread of disease.

In the wake of World War II, a wave of international collaboration created the World Health Organization. The HIV/AIDS epidemic spawned a new era of urgency and activism for international health efforts.

Great threats have historically been catalysts for change. Will the Covid-19 pandemic help make public health more valued, sustainable, and resilient? It’s possible, but not without sustained commitment in five areas: