Global Health graduate Himani Bhatnagar is working as a policy analyst with the Infection Prevention and Control team at the BC Ministry of Health, as part of the province’s emergency response to COVID-19.
This work has enabled her to see firsthand the government’s response to infectious disease outbreaks, and contribute to efforts to prepare and strengthen the provincial health system for its impacts. The focus on COVID-19 has been a shift for Bhatnagar, who, prior to the pandemic, worked in tuberculosis (TB) research, having recently published a paper on TB patient experiences in India.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, has reinforced how communicable diseases know no borders and how humans are evermore interconnected,” explains Bhatnagar, noting a need for the global community to work together to tackle infectious diseases that disproportionately impact the developing world.
According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for the highest burden of TB in the world, with 26 percent of all cases. In 2017, for example, the country suffered an estimated 2.7 million new cases of TB and 420,000 related deaths
“TB infects 10 million people every year and kills 1.5 million – it’s a century-old disease that mainly persists in low-income countries and communities and while it can affect everyone, the worst effects are felt by the poor and vulnerable,” she says. “And unlike COVID-19, TB has a treatment and a cure.”
Bhatnagar calls for a “global co-ordinated effort” to combat TB and other infectious diseases, and “hopefully, the kind of determined actions we have seen taken with COVID-19,” she says.
“It has been inspiring to see the world come together to tackle an infectious disease and I hope the momentum continues beyond COVID-19.”