Public health emergencies of international concern, in the form of infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics, represent an increasing risk to the worldʼs population. Management requires coordinated responses, across many disciplines and nations, and the capacity to muster proper national and global public health education, infrastructure, and prevention measures. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of nations are ruled by autocratic regimes which have characteristically failed to adopt investments in public health infrastructure, education, and prevention measures to keep pace with population growth and density. Autocratic leaders have a direct impact on health security, a direct negative impact on health, and create adverse political and economic conditions that only complicate the crisis further. This is most evident in autocratic regimes where health protections have been seriously and purposely curtailed. All autocratic regimes define public health along economic and political imperatives that are similar across borders and cultures. Autocratic regimes are seriously handicapped by sociopathic narcissistic leaders who are incapable of understanding the health consequences of infectious diseases or the impact on their population. A cross section of autocratic nations currently experiencing the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) are reviewed to demonstrate the manner where self-serving regimes fail to manage health crises and place the rest of the world at increasing risk. It is time to re-address the pre-SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) global agendas calling for stronger strategic capacity, legal authority, support, and institutional status under World Health Organization (WHO) leadership granted by an International Health Regulations Treaty. Treaties remain the most successful means the world has in preventing, preparing for, and controlling epidemics in an increasingly globalized world.
“Honesty is worth a lot more than hope…” The Economist, February 17, 2020.