Political Health

That is a term I just heard from one of my friends (JQ).  She is talking about what we call the governmental public health system, public health agencies that are part of local, state, federal, and tribal governments.

Public health leaders are used to working in a political environment, but no one was prepared for the COVID-19 politics!

I don’t know how many of you saw the article in the New York Times: Public Health Faces a Crisis Across the U.S.  It is long, but worth a read. 

In essence, pandemic anger is being directed at governmental public health leaders and staff.  That anger includes physical threats!

I’ve worked in governmental public health for decades.  Over that time, we had to make some unpopular decisions to protect people from contagious diseases.  The only other time that I remember actual threats was during the early days of AIDS.  People had a lot of fear and not a lot of knowledge about HIV.  I imagine some public health people were threatened, but nothing like now!

Public health has been grossly underfunded for a very long time.  Because of that, most agencies were ill equipped with the staff and resources needed to address COVID 19.  But they did their best as they usually do.

Up until recently, public health policies generally, but not always, had support (but not funding) across the aisle.  Democrats and Republicans both supported vaccines and other measures to control communicable disease.  Environmental public health was sometimes taken to task because businesses weren’t happy with certain regulations.  And work in chronic disease was often seen as ‘nanny state’ by Republicans. 

COVID 19 threw all that political support to the winds.  Laws are being passed across the country that limit the authority of public health agencies.  That effectively ties their hands so they can’t do what is necessary to protect the public.

Most people working in governmental public health believe that a healthy economy is good for overall health.  So public health leaders aren’t in the business of hurting business!  The actions being taken are geared to saving lives. PERIOD!

I know my former colleagues across the country are disheartened, discouraged, and now fearful for their safety.  People are leaving the field and new hires are hard to come by.

Everybody looks at public health now and says, who wants to work there?  Who wants to work in that chaotic mess?

Sue Rhodes, Health Department Administrator, Marshall County, Kansas

It is hard to see a ‘happy ending’ right now.  I am concerned that the strides public health has taken over the years to eradicate diseases, protect the environment, promote immunizations, and improve the health of the pubic is now in the rear-view mirror ☹!

Allene

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2 thoughts on “Political Health

  1. It is a very sad and dangerous trend. I am so appreciative of public health professionals and know millions of others are as well. We have, I believe much fewer, very vocal people that are perpetuating the anger and hate.

    Like

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