COVID-19: Health and Humanities-Online International Conference 16-17th April

Comments and Summary



Professor Hsiu-Hsi Chen

1. Trust and faith in government policy and communication with profession- and science- translated layman language in society to adapt each type of containment measures

2. All-out long-term preparedness for the recovery of COVID-19 pandemic should be tailored with various containment measures

3. A new normal life (transform digital industries) will be created.

4. Global integration under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from poverty to partnership 


Professor Ping-Chen Hsiung

Although history as a discipline tends to be retrospective, it often takes a current event to push historians to search for meaning and insights.  Here, I like to take examples of understandings on the Athenian Plague (430-425 BCE), Black Death (1347-1351), in European history, as well as the more recent Hong Kong and Manchurian Plagues in the late 19th Century and the SARS in early 21th Century Asia to shed some light on our current experience with the Covid-19 of the 21th Century.

This longer gaze may help us to see how poorly prepared people were, and still regarding their own wellbeing in the matters of life and death. Ironically, mixed blessings could and did come of these terrible encounters, whether with the Athenian Plague that ended the Classical Greek, or the Black Death that cleared the ground for Renaissance.  Humanities are yet to be invited to help with their expertise to better meet up with the COVID-19 pandemic now. “People who do not know history tend to repeat it.”

Professor Luiz Oosterbeek

COVID-19 re-emphases the gap between medicine and humanities that should be bridged. The choice between human right with good quality of life and economic needs to be integrated to develop a new cultural landscape for a new normal life.

Recommendation: Main Health (e.g. World Health Organization and international Health associations), Economics (e.g. World Tourism Organization) and Humanistic (e.g. UNESCO and CIPSH) organizations, should establish a joint workgroup to prepare a strategic guidelines document, for a new, healthy, sustainable and humanistic economy.


Professor Laurent Tissot

Tourism enhances the risk transmission of pandemic infection like COVID-19. In his short story Death in Venice, Thomas Mann describes the process that leads tourists to be caught in a net from which they can scarcely extricate themselves. An in-depth study of the sources used by Thomas Mann to describe the "Indian cholera" epidemic would be interesting. His description does not spare us either stereotypes about populations (people from the South and the East) or geographical areas (Asia). But his text helps us to analyze the infection process in its tragic sequence: from the arrival of the epidemic to implications in the form of departure or quarantine. This sequence leads to an inevitable halting of tourist activities. 


Professor Yen-Yuan Chen

To allocate scarce medical resources, we should consider ethical principles, values and beliefs of different stake holders and scientific evidence, and the social and cultural values. If all other information is not available, the government (decision makers) should take public health action depending on ethical principles. The difficult ethical question of who should receive access to a ventilator first illustrates issues of public policy regarding urgent health issues.


Professor Tim Jensen

Making use of the leadership in religion is a useful means to cope with COVID-19 pandemic. For example, washing hand before prey, staying at home during eastern, spread of public health measures through the groups of religion, etc. Interpretation of COVID-19 pandemic through a religious perspective can help the word to have a better coping strategy to current situation.

Religion, religious beliefs, practices, leaders and groups may be good as well as bad in regard to health, physical and mental, individual and public. Attributing supernatural causes to natural diseases may be 'meaning-making' and thus mentally healthy but disregarding natural causes and naturalistic explanations and medical cures may be devastating. Thinking Covid-19 is a punishment by a god may lead to prayer and to hope but if it leads to nothing but prayer it may be really bad. Religious leaders insisting that it is caused by immorality and that the congregations should meet no matter what are not good for the health. But: combining faith in gods with faith in health authorities, prayer with washing of the hands, brotherhood with social distancing is both possible and good for the health.  


Professor Jesus de la Villa

Historical viewpoint can help people to have a whole understanding on epidemic, especially the psychology, anthropology, sociology and, and Economics aspect. Illness is a time of individual change and, in the case of an epidemic, also of collective change. It always affects people, but it can also affect societies as a whole. The significance of the disease causes a social cut, the importance of which will vary depending on the number of people affected and the severity of the disease. The precise description and understanding of the medical characteristics of the disease correspond to doctors, biologists, chemists. But the comprehensive understanding of the true significance of disease for human beings, individually and collectively, is properly studied, in my opinion, by the social sciences and also by the humanities. In the description of the various aspects in which individuals and society are affected by the disease, sciences such as Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology and, naturally, Economics participate. History, for its part, one of the core subjects of the Humanities, provides the global analysis of phenomena, seeking their causes, their development and their consequences, both for individuals and for larger human groups and, potentially, for the entire humanity. And there are also philosophical, archaeological, and ethical approaches, in which the human sciences provide their own views on the effects of disease on different facets of life. Even language can be a way to understand some social aspects of the phenomenon, as proved by Susan Sontag's famous essay Illness as Metaphor.


Professor Zoltan Somhegyi

The investigation of the modes of showcasing artworks and consuming cultural content during the COVID-19 pandemic can help us estimate certain aspects of the infrastructure of arts and aesthetics in the future.




1. Further detail SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), accelerating targets 3.8 (universal health coverage) and 3.B (research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases), implicating cultural concerns sensitivity into health care strategies (namely involving humanities experts) and designing economic development strategies that promote stronger investment in well-being for global health care.

2. Expand the teaching of comparative history of societies in face of major health and other hazards, as well as related literature and art works, fostering reflection on human risks and resilience beyond anxiety and social disruption.

3. Allocate medical resources, namely when scarce, considering ethical principles, values and beliefs of different communities, based on scientific evidence and the social and cultural values.

4. Engage all sectors of society into the promotion of health care through culturally respectful and responsible behavior recommendation, fostering convergence of diverse attitudes for global health and well-being

5. Main health, economics and humanities organizations (e.g. World Health Organization, international Health associations, World Tourism Organization, UNESCO and CIPSH) should establish a joint workgroup to prepare strategic recommendations for a new, healthy, sustainable and humanistic economy.





Professor Hsiu-Hsi Chen

1. Awareness of personal protection form COVID-19 has cultural difference and it takes time for adaption.

2. Public Gathering should be avoided to reduce community-acquired infection

3. Social distancing is required for reducing the risk of transmission for important and necessary public gathering. Evaluation of effectiveness in social distancing is strongly recommended.


Professor Ping-Chen Hsiung

1.  Make room for a structural position of Humanities in global health crises in the future, which is absent at this time.

2.  Humanities disciplines and scholars be better prepared to participate and work together with other forces in meeting specific needs in pandemics or other urgent matters of the world.


Professor Philip Buckley

Using concepts of phenomenology on subjective and objective conjecture, under the current situation  of the COVID-19 pandemic it  is worthwhile to reflect on the meaning and concepts raised  and to analyze how people  describe and understand the circumstance and perceived threats we are all involved in. The technique of phenomenological description and attention to the frequently used linguistic expressions will help us grasp the many cultural and social manifestations of the current pandemic.


Professor Marta Hanson

Role of alternative medicine and orthodox medicine in epidemic provides us a chance to have understanding on how people face with COVID-19 pandemic in a humanity perspective.“Alternative medicine” reflects how people understand disease and human body/function form the perspective other than biology (ex. cultural).

Regarding to how to understand why Traditional Chinese medicine was and continues to be used to treat COVID-19 patients in mainland China, the following arguments were made.  First, the boundaries between orthodox and alternative medicine are not only mutually constitutive but also take different forms in different health care systems. For example, CAM (complementary and orthodox meda "persistent shadow" of orthodox med in the US , according to Charles Rosenberg) but an integral dimension of mainland China's health care system, albeit "subordinated" or "lesser way" (xiaodao) compared to biomedicine. 


Prof Harold Sjursen

Medical humanities and “learning to be human” can help people relieve several disparate issues arising from COVID-19 pandemic. As we find ourselves now in the midst of a global, pandemic health crisis, understanding what it means to be human is crucial to our hopes for the future. I want to look at two ethical challenges, surprisingly interlocked, to the future of humanity that are posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19: First is the use of medical AI to diagnose and then determine the necessary treatment protocol and appropriate therapy for those infected; Second, the identification of the virus as caused by an ethnic group and its cultural practices. In this presentation I will outline the traditional philosophical ideal of being human and then show how the growing use medical AI together with rising ethnic/cultural xenophobia threaten this ideal. Finally, I will discuss how these apparently disparate phenomena are related and how the fear of COVID-19 might lead to the acceptance of troubling ethical standards. 


Professor Cheuk-Yin Lee

Based upon the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), eating wisely to enhance your physical health and immune system will be is the advice for everybody during this epidemic crisis.There are two basic principles in understanding TCM: 1. Living in harmony with nature; 2. Medicine and food are from the same origin. According to Chinese philosophy, man having evolved from nature, should continuously seek to understand, learn and live in harmony with the principles and laws of nature. Should we continue to fight with each other and exploit nature, it is only a matter of time that the earth will no longer be home to man. To live in harmony with nature, the ancient Chinese saw the four seasons as the great law of the world. Conforming to the right Qi (Breath of Nature) of the four seasons in order to suit the changes in Yin and Yang as well as the growth and degeneration of one’s internal organs, formed the basic considerations of health. Observing the changes in the four seasons and the Yin and Yang, making the best use of the situation, maximizing benefits and avoiding harm became an important guiding ideology of the ancient Chinese.


Dr. Tzung-Jeng Hwang

· COVID-19 pandemic is a planetary health issue that has arisen in part due to our disregard for nature.

· People affected by this pandemic are disproportionately the most vulnerable. These include the elderly, and those with chronic diseases. Under the unavoidable duress caused by the    pandemic, mental problems emerge or exacerbate isolation, loneliness and other stressful conditions compound the strictly medical issues associated with the pandemic.

· We need to advance our understanding of how to help our patients and ourselves as part of a comprehensive approach to COVID-19 that includes environmental and social provisions.