The Goal of Public Health
The goal of public health is to prevent people from getting sick or injured. Unlike most health care where the focus is on treating people after they develop a medical condition, public health has always been about protecting the public, focusing on ways to prevent disease, tracing communicable disease outbreaks to limit the spread, and many other measures to help increase the health and safety of the public.
For the most part, public health has carried out its mission without much notice from the people in the community. In many regions, public health is the only source of healthcare for people who do not have health insurance and are struggling financially. Many hard-working professionals are employed by health departments that frequently have limited funds and not enough staff. Physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, social workers, environmental health specialists, and many others work very hard to protect the health and wellbeing of the residents in their counties.
Covid-19 Arrival in the US
In March 2020, when Covid-19 first started making its nasty presence known, we celebrated public health officials as our heroes. Most everyone recognized the enormous tasks public health professionals experienced with this novel coronavirus. Covid-19, which was unknown before December 2019, required much fast-paced research to learn as much as possible about the virus in an attempt to discover how it was spread and how to prevent or lessen the further spread of this deadly virus. From the CDC to the local level, many wonderful public health researchers and scientists continue to spend countless hours researching and trying to provide the most relevant information about how to control the spread of this virus and keep as many people healthy as possible.
Weariness in the Journey
Much research on COVID- 19 shows that the most effective way to slow down the spread of the virus is to practice social distancing, maintain vigilant handwashing, avoid touching your face as much as possible, and avoid assembling in large crowds.
Unfortunately, as time has passed, many people have grown tired of being quarantined in their homes and not being able to do most of the activities they were used to. Vast amounts of jobs have been lost due to the massive shutdown. The economic and personal stress has left many people very angry. In early April, individuals began to protest the stay at home orders and as time has gone on, have become louder and more aggressive. Lamentably, public health directors and other public health professionals have borne the brunt of people’s anger and to a growing number of the population, they have become the enemy. Numerous conspiracy theories abound as people attempt to find an explanation for this terrible virus. Sadly, for many, it has become a political issue instead of the public health crisis that it is.
Protests, Threats, Even Death Threats
As a result, in many states, public health directors and staff have experienced aggressive protests aimed in their direction. Threats, including death threats, vandalism, public slander, and many other negative events have left them fearful for their safety. Across the country, more than two dozen public health officials have resigned from their positions. These resignations continue to increase. At this critical time, we cannot afford to lose so many experienced, public health officials.
Time to Unite
Covid-19 is a very serious threat to our health and wellbeing. Not only is there a risk of contracting the virus and possibly experiencing some very serious health consequences and even death, but there are so many other deleterious effects. Our economy, mental health, relationships, and a host of other things are suffering immensely. As the pandemic continues to spread wildly beyond our control, our public health officials need our trust, and our support now more than ever. We need to figure out strategies to build trust in our richly, deserving public health officials yet once again.