The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, November 2021,
COVID-19 is disrupting and transforming the world. We argue that transformations catalysed by this pandemic should be used to improve human and planetary health and wellbeing. This paradigm shift requires decision makers and policy makers to go beyond building back better, by nesting the economic domain of sustainable development within social and environmental domains. Drawing on the engage, assess, align, accelerate, and account (E4As) approach to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we explore the implications of this kind of radical transformative change, focusing particularly on the role of the health sector. We conclude that a recovery and transition from the COVID-19 pandemic that delivers the future humanity wants and needs requires more than a technical understanding of the transformation at hand. It also requires commitment and courage from leaders and policy makers to challenge dominant constructs and to work towards a truly thriving, equitable, and sustainable future to create a world where economic development is not an end goal itself, but a means to secure the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.