Participating in public health is a civic duty. In America, we have access to a wealth of experts for many institutions. Many crises and emergencies have been avoided over the years due to advances in public health and public safety.
Public health is not the enemy. Actually, it has been in your life a lot longer than you think. “Click It OR Ticket” and “drive sober or pull over” are public health campaigns.
These reminders help avoidable negative outcomes from occurring. And yet, in this ongoing crisis, it feels like there is a palpable adversarial relationship to public health guidelines and strategies in the community.
A notable example: the anti-mask groups/individuals, but it goes beyond that. I wish to encourage those who feel called out to make over their relationship to public health.
What would happen if we had wildfires being set at the pace that we have COVID-19 cases flooding the hospitals in surges? Let’s say the fires range from benign to catastrophic, but we had firefighters all over the country saying that “we have too many house fires, too many wildfires, it is hard to keep up with the calls, we can’t help everyone at this rate.” We would agree there is a problem.
It would be unacceptable to tell the firefighters that they were making that up, that they knew what they signed up for, or that they were working with nefarious purposes (just to make money).
I recently put together some home-schooling lessons with my daughter to explore community helpers. We talked about sanitation workers, construction workers, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, service members and beyond. We talk about how they all work together. Reflecting on these community helpers, I see people in our community regularly promoting “Back the Blue,” or “Support the Troops.” However, the gratitude and support does not extend to health care workers on the other side of hospital doors. I challenge you to think about that if this describes you. These community helpers have been tirelessly working to save lives. We ended our lesson by thinking of ways that we can be community helpers.
Following public health is one way to be a community helper during this pandemic. It would allow more people to be able to continue to work, and more businesses to survive and thrive. Intentionally doing the opposite is the same as setting a fire in a forest when you are not supposed to.
If your perception of this crisis is that it is not a crisis, it is time to evaluate what steps made it “not a crisis” for you.
The reason we have a “low death rate” is because we benefited from many restrictions that flattened the curve, and health care workers teamed up to keep patients alive. Not overwhelming the health care system was great, but that did not mean the existing threat was erased altogether, or that it could not get worse. The health care workers’ successes were used against them in an indirect way.
If you are unhappy with how public health is applied in our state, you have options. You can earn a degree in public health, and then be in charge of the difficult decisions.
Every tragedy in history can be summarized by something like “all gave some, some gave all” type message for those involved. I will say for COVID-19, “most gave some, some gave more, some gave all, and others did worse than nothing.” How shameful would it be to say you spent the entire time in the latter category.
Reframe your relationship with public health and find ways to be a partner of public health through February. Try to let go of your past relationships with public health.
Three people I recommend listening to:
n N.C. DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, who deserves more credit than she has received from some part of the community for her science-driven decision making.
n A Facebook page that deserves a “like” for straightforward information from an epidemiologist. Search for “Your Local Epidemiologist.” I follow and recommend for accurate and applicable translation of the wealth of science.
n The Pilot and FirstHealth of the Carolinas, who have put out good current information as we go.
You have likely already been a partner to public health in the past. Consider other ways you can apply guidelines that can avoid further catastrophe in the crisis that we are experiencing.
Public health is not the enemy or the threat, and strategies and guidelines are suggesting the best choices for the most people. Add one strategy and consider it a patriotic civic duty.
Be a Hero’s Hero, aka a “community helper,” someone we all want our kids to be. Who wants to be my partner in public health? I think we will all find more freedom when we trust public health.
Ashleigh Corsino is a Pinehurst resident and wife of a local medical professional and partner in public health.