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Wednesday, 20 October 2021
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UK public fear impact of another global health emergency

FOLLOWING a year of adapting to and living with the global COVID-19 pandemic, people in the UK are concerned about the potential impact of future crises, presenting a unique window for positive change to happen, says the British Red Cross. 

A new poll – the first to gauge people’s feelings about potential future events in light of the coronavirus emergency – reveals that nearly three-quarters of UK adults worry about how a future pandemic could affect them.

Published today alongside a new British Red Cross and Demos essay collection –Communities of Humanitarian Thought: The Case for Change in a Time of Crisis – the survey results show that 75% say they are concerned about the global impact of a future health emergency like a pandemic, while 71% are concerned about the impact of a personal health crisis on themselves or their family.

Almost three-quarters of people (73%) are concerned about the impact of access to health and social care throughout the UK as the world opens up again while three quarters (76%) of UK adults agree that the UK needs to address the underlying inequalities that impact the ability of people to cope and recover from a crisis.

Looking at the wider impact of crises often perceived to be more acute in other parts of the world, the survey also found that 61% of UK adults agree that they are concerned climate change will have an impact on their lives.

The British Red Cross has published these findings as it launches a collection of essays from leading thinkers across different sectors, outlining a vision for the future.

Communities of Humanitarian Thought: The Case for Change in a Time of Crisis invites diverse contributors from across the political spectrum to describe what they see as the challenges – and, crucially, opportunities for policy change – across three urgent humanitarian issues: disasters and emergencies, health inequalities, and displacement and migration.

Contributors to the collection include Patricia Hewitt, Nimco Ali, Iain Duncan Smith and Nisreen Elsaim. Their essays cover topics from supporting refugees, investing in young people’s mental health and tackling loneliness to global climate action, ending modern slavery, and defining Britain’s place on the world stage.  

 It also features the voices of British Red Cross staff and volunteers, discussing their own relationships with the charity’s work, and concludes with recommendations from the charity advocating for change

The British Red Cross is calling for UK and devolved government, local authorities, the NHS, health and care providers, charities, community organisations and others to come together to ensure people’s needs are placed at the heart of any future decisions around crisis response and that those most vulnerable to the impact of crisis are given a greater say in how those responses take shape. 

The charity’s new poll shows that nearly three-quarters of UK adults (73%) agree that local communities should be directly involved in the preparation and response of crises and, while only a quarter of the British public say the pandemic has inspired them to play a more active role in helping others in their community, almost half of young adults aged 18 to 34 years old (47%) said they had been inspired by the pandemic to help people in their community more. 

Mike Adamson, Chief Executive at British Red Cross, said:

“The pandemic has opened the eyes of many to how a major crisis can develop. We are all now more aware – concerned, even – of what may lie ahead.

“People are worried about big picture challenges, including the prospect of another global health emergency and climate change, and the direct impact those events could have on their lives.

“Our research also shows that a large majority of the British public want the underlying inequalities laid bare by Covid to be addressed. 

“As we look towards recovery, we are faced with a unique opportunity to learn and build towards a more resilient future, ensuring no one is left behind. Everyone must play an active role – from politicians and policymakers to those supporting communities and working in civil society.

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