How financial giants can help prevent next pandemic

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS): Climate change will increase the risks of new health outbreaks and financial companies should make sure that their investments help to mitigate and adapt to those risks, a new study has said.

Many emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, especially zoonotic diseases such as ebola or new coronaviruses, emerge as the result of intensified human activities such as deforestation, expansion of agricultural land, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife.

In a new study, published in the scientific journal Lancet Planetary Health, researchers identified public and private companies operating in economic sectors associated with increased risks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

“Financial actors have an important, but often ignored, role to help prevent the emergence of infectious diseases. Their investments enable economic activities in known zoonotic disease hotspots globally,” said Victor Galaz, lead author and senior researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

Large investors hold potential influence over companies operating in these hotspots, and this influence could be leveraged to mitigate risks of new pandemics, Galaz added.

The study identified countries that either invest themselves or host headquarters of companies with investments in hotspots for emerging infectious diseases. These countries, including France, the US, Portugal, Norway, and Sweden, could work together to use financial influence to address the risks of outbreaks and pandemics, according to the study’s authors.

“Corporate policies that focus only on deforestation and land-use change are not enough to mitigate the risk of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. They fail to consider how agricultural expansion and deforestation increase the risk of pathogen spillover from reservoir to hosts,” explained Paula A Sanchez, researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and co-author of the study.

There is a need for policies to reduce the edge effect, create pathogen surveillance systems and improve the health care systems of communities living in areas that are emerging infectious hotspots, Sanchez added.

As emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases present a global risk to the economic and financial systems, there is a need to ensure standardized reporting of corporate and investment activities in infectious hotspots to reduce the risk of outbreaks at a global scale, the authors noted.



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