Selecting the right risk mitigation strategy is always a matter of choice, the future is uncertain and the default human response tends to be risk aversion. Some uncertainties can be resolved through more knowledge, but others cannot be and these are leap in the dark we call radical uncertainty. Decisions on public health should not be compromised by fears of economic impact, but they are and that is why we don’t have a complete lock-down for the second wave of Covid 19.
The latest public health advice in the UK assumes that we are in ‘Damage-limitation’ mode until a vaccine can be approved and rolled out. Talk of an imminent vaccine, like that of a moon-shot testing programme, might be good for public morale and, indeed, the public is becoming wary of hollow claims. Should we perhaps be considering a ‘Coping strategy’ that allows us to live with the virus rather than rely on promises of eradication?
During the last six months, scientific knowledge of Covid 19 has increased significantly, we know how it attaches to cells, how it spreads within the body and of course the type of victim it selects as a host. A vaccine should disable the virus attachment mechanism, but in the meantime what advice to the elderly and those with ‘pre-existing health conditions’ who are most susceptible to it? We know the common vulnerability is a weakened immunity system, so why not try to strengthen it?
Our health system has always been more curative than preventative, reactive rather than positive, so there is little attention to boosting immunity. Immunology tells us wellbeing is not just about eating five fruit and veg a day or popping a daily vitamin C or zinc tablet, the subject is not promoted outside of nutrition. How many people in the vulnerable category actually take immune bosting supplements like Quercetin and Bromelain? How many know of their existence?
Natural health shops supply a vast range of supplements that can boost the immune system but customers need to do a lot of research on their specific benefits. Health claims are strictly controlled by drug companies and many effective immune boosting supplements are prevented from making claims because they have not been verified in official medical tests. This doesn’t mean they can’t strengthen a fragile or compromised immune system, it just means they cannot say so.
Nobody would disagree that prevention is better than cure, so now we know which sectors of society are at risk, we should be able to help them build immunity or at least promote an effective T-cells response to virus contact. This is what our immune system is designed to do; it just needs help, whether confronting a virus, cancer or similar pathogen. There is an opportunity to be much more selective in our public protection strategy than is currently being proposed based on industry or town. It needs to be better targeted with support based on building personal immunity.
We are told that barely 7% of the population has the virus and herd immunity is unachievable, so personal protection becomes a serious option. Rather that shielding the vulnerable in isolation hoping they don’t catch the virus, far better to assume they will catch it but need to be fortified to tackle it. This requires a change of mind-set about coping with the situation that is unfolding. It also requires a commitment to boost immunity using known natural ingredients like plant sterols, flavonoids and polyphenols, something that could be done with the right strategy.
Adopting prevention strategies is fundamental in many settings. Preventative maintenance, for example, is becoming more common as IoT and AI improve prediction. Fitness/wellness trackers will soon start to bring this concept into the healthcare field.”
Garry Honey is a SAMI Associate specialising in risk decisions in governing bodies. He focuses on the way risk at board level is a business enabler, and on the interface between risk and futures thinking.
Written by Garry Honey, SAMI Associate and founder of Chiron Risk
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.
SAMI Consulting was founded in 1989 by Shell and St Andrews University. They have undertaken scenario planning projects for a wide range of UK and international organisations. Their core skill is providing the link between futures research and strategy.
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