Global Health Security Index not a proven surrogate for health systems capacity to respond to pandemics: The case of COVID-19

J Infect Public Health. 2023 Feb;16(2):196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2022.12.011. Epub 2022 Dec 21.


Introduction: Global Health Security borders on prevention, detection and response to public health threats like the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Global Health Security Index (GHSI) of 2019 and 2021 revealed the world remains ill-prepared to deal with future pandemics, evident in the historic impact of COVID-19 on countries. As at 7th December 2022, COVID-19 has infected over 600 million people and claimed over six million lives, mostly in countries with higher GHSI scores.

Objective: Determine whether the GHSI scores of countries have a correlation with COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination coverage, while adjusting for country level dynamics.

Methods: This paper utilizes GHSI database of 195 countries. Data consists of 171 questions grouped into 37 indicators across six overarching categories on health security and COVID-19. Multivariate multiple regression analysis with robust standard errors was conducted to test the hypothesis that high GHSI ratings do not guarantee better COVID-19 outcomes like cases, deaths and vaccination coverage. Also, avplots STATA command was used to check outliers with potential negative effect on outcome and predictor variables.

Results: Global average GHSI score for all 195 countries was 38.9. United States of America recorded the highest GHSI score of 75.9 but also recorded one of the highest COVID-19 cases and deaths; Somalia recorded the worst GHSI score of 16.0 and one of the lowest COVID-19 cases and deaths. High GHSI scores did not associate positively with reduction in COVID-19 cases (Coef=157133.4, p-value=0.009, [95%CI 39728.64 274538.15]) and deaths (Coef=1405.804, p-value=0.047, [95%CI 18.1 2793.508]). However, high GHSI ratings associated with increases in persons fully vaccinated per 100 population (Coef=0.572, p-value=0.000, [95%CI.272.873]).

Conclusion: It appears the world might still not be adequately prepared for the next major pandemic, if the narrative remains unchanged. Countries that recorded higher GHSI scores, counter-intuitively, recorded higher COVID-19 cases and deaths. Countries need to invest more in interventions towards attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) including integrated health systems and formidable primary health care to enhance preparedness and response to pandemics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Global Health Security Index; Health systems; Pandemics; Preparedness; Primary Health Care; Universal Health Coverage.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Forecasting
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Public Health