The COVID-19 pandemic has cost the world trillions of dollars.

But according to one scientist, preventing a future one could cost a fraction of that if we invest it in the right places.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein is the interim director of Harvard's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, also known as C-CHANGE. He's also the leader of the new Scientific Task Force for Preventing Pandemics at the Source.

According to Dr. Bernstein, we spend time and money on pandemic prevention tools, like vaccines and health system readiness. And while all of those things are crucial for protecting the populace, they also become irrelevant if we can stop pandemics at their sources, or before the pathogens and viruses that cause them transmit from animals to people.

"It's important to acknowledge that we swim in a common germ pool with all other animals with backbones on earth," said Bernstein. "And we know this because there's pox viruses. We used to have small pox in people, we've eradicated that, but there's camel pox and monkey pox. There are disease like HIV, which of course is a human disease but its first cousin is in non-human primates. We know that virus spilled from non-human primates into people on many occasions. And we look around the world, and we see that there's sort of the first cousins of the diseases of people in other organisms. So of course there are things out there that haven't infected us yet, that might. And so we can prepare for what we know and we're trying to prepare for what we think might come our way."

Dr. Bernstein says actions like deforestation not only displace potentially infected animals, but increase the chances of them coming into contact with humans and transmitting disease. He says the task force will focus on these potential transmissions and best practices for preventing them.

We also heard from Dr. Roy Perlis, the director for the Center for Quantitative Health at Mass General Hospital, about a new study that shows despite the pandemic improving in the United States, rates of depression remain high among most age groups nationwide.

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full episode.


Dr. Roy Perlis - 2:30
Dr. Aaron Bernstein - 15:54