In any crisis, leaders have two equally important responsibilities: solve the immediate problem and keep it from happening again. The COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent case in point. The world needs to save lives now while also improving the way we respond to outbreaks in general. The first point is more pressing, but the second has crucial long-term consequences.

The long-term challenge—improving our ability to respond to outbreaks—isn’t new. Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic rivalling the speed and severity of the 1918 influenza epidemic wasn’t a matter of if but when. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed significant resources in recent years to helping the world prepare for such a scenario.

Oxfam East Africa [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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