A time for prudence, science, and facts

02 April 2021


How the noncommunicable disease community can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

The ongoing crisis is showing very clearly the flaws of many countries’ health systems, especially their unpreparedness to deal with disease outbreaks. Now more than ever we witness the importance of investing in health care and having resilient health systems ready to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

The current pandemic is followed very carefully by those living with non-communicable diseases, as early evidence shows that people living with non-communicable diseases are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Moreover, people with chronic diseases are experiencing a disruption in terms of care. They are worried about shortages in medications and delayed doctor’s appointments.

It is going to be difficult times for us in the psoriasis community. We struggle to understand if people living with psoriasis are a ”high-risk population” as we have insufficient data on this matter. There are many questions related to treatment regimens affecting the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Appointments with doctors are at risk of being delayed. The constant flux of information on the pandemic can be an additional burden on mental health.

The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres stated that ”This is a time for prudence, not panic. Science, not stigma. Facts, not fear”. We, as the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, and you, national psoriasis associations and fellow psoriasis advocates, all have a role to play during this crisis.

Right now, we can:

  • Share resources and information obtained from reliable sources, like the World Health Organization and national health authorities, but also medical societies and other reputable organizations.
  • Warn policy makers when the limited access to proper medical care becomes dangerously excessive. The consequences of a reduced medical attention to psoriasis and its comorbid diseases can last far longer than the current pandemic, therefore they cannot be ignored even in these times of crisis.
  • Help combat stigma. Rumors, fake news and incorrect information drive people to hide the illness and delay seeking medical care. People of Asian descent, people who have travelled and health care professionals have been recently experiencing stigma. People living with psoriasis know better than anyone that stigmatization is nothing but a source of needless suffering, so let’s contribute to the fight against stigma by sharing facts and educating the public.
  • Offer support to your members. Isolation can take a toll on mental health and be an additional burden for people living with psoriasis. Find ways to connect to your members digitally.

One day, this pandemic will be over. In the aftermath of
the pandemic, we can:

  • Advocate for universal health coverage. Universal health coverage is the best way to ensure that everyone in need of care, both those affected by infectious diseases and those living with non-communicable chronic conditions, receive the high-quality care they need. If your country does not have universal health coverage, or if the health system of your country displays severe inequalities, join other organizations in advocating for a better health care system.
  • Join other associations advocating for non-communicable diseases. Health promotion, prevention and stronger primary care can help relieve the pressure experienced by hospitals, therefore enabling them to respond to health emergencies more efficiently.
  • Advocate for implementing innovative solutions in health care. When the access to in-person meeting with health care professionals is impaired, as it happens during these times but also as many countries experience an uneven distribution of health care professionals, online consultations can be a safe way to monitor the patients’ progress. Implementing these systems in non-emergency times will be an advantage ahead of future emergencies.

The current situation is a hard lesson for everyone. Let’s make sure to learn from it and be better prepared for the future.