“With crisis du Covid-19, the French are discovering new types of health risks which could suddenly, beyond their effects on health, impact their daily life with devastating economic and social consequences. Is France prepared to face it? The events of the last few months give little cause for optimism. The current parliamentary committees will hopefully shed light on the state’s chronic unpreparedness and its structural inability to anticipate and manage this type of crisis.
Such anticipation requires the identification of these major risks. Fortunately, they are not very numerous. First of all, the risk of an epidemic, like the one we are currently experiencing, remains a constant threat with the possible emergence of multiple infectious diseases, potentially more deadly than Covid-19. We must now be aware of this danger.
Nuclear, bioterrorism and climate events
The nuclear risk, linked to the accidental release of radioactive elements into the environment, is the second health risk to be anticipated. We remember Chernobyl in Ukraine (1986), or Fukushima, Japan (2011). Such an accident, in France or in another country with civilian and / or military nuclear capabilities, cannot be ruled out.
The third risk concerns “classic” terrorism and bioterrorism. This last threat must be taken very seriously. There are many bioterrorist weapons: dissemination of pathogenic bacteria or viruses (plague, botulinum toxin, smallpox, anthrax, etc.), use of biotechnologies allowing genetic modification of toxins, use of synthetic biological, chemical or radioactive agents.
Acute and massive pollution of the air or water constitutes another health risk with potentially serious consequences. The fires of the Lubrizol plant in Rouen or from Notre Dame de Paris are recent examples. Forest fires or violent climatic and geological events can also quickly turn into a health nightmare.
Social inequalities represent the greatest health risk
A fifth risk, recent and creeping, results from the recurring shortage of certain vital drugs, equipment and medical devices. Most of our pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are manufactured outside of France. However, health must be considered as an axis of strategic sovereignty in the same way as national defense. Imagine for a moment that China or India decides to punish France for geopolitical reasons by stopping its supply of antibiotics: tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths would certainly be deplored. A French and European relocation plan, much more ambitious than that recently announced by the government, must be implemented urgently.
But social inequalities constitute by far the greatest health risk: the state of health and the life expectancy of a population are mainly determined by socio-economic factors. Social misery and the behaviors associated with it (atmospheric pollution, tobacco and alcohol consumption, etc.) kill more surely than any other factor, although this risk is of a different nature, with slower spread and less visible.
Even if France is not starting from scratch, far from it, it is time to develop a global strategic vision in order to identify and prioritize these risks, and to prepare the country for their emergence. This will require considerable resources and a profound restructuring within the state health apparatus. It is not just a matter of doctors or health professionals, but an impetus that must come from the top. ”