individual interventions…are less important than all of the things that we do at a community level. If you look at how mortality has changed in the past 150 years, the biggest improvements came from cleaning water, cleaning the air, making roads safer. All of these are things that governments, not individuals, have control over.
Public health lessons from COVID, in https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/covid-public-health-infectious-disease-lessons/671746/
…Some of the good things that have come out of the pandemic are
- Better recognition of the importance of ventilation in indoor air quality
- Faster movement by the FDA to make diagnostic tests available to people, including their ability to use them in their homes.
- There’s a lot of interest among young people in public health. That’s a good thing for society.
- Public awareness about the risk of pandemics, and the fact that we are now living in an age of pandemics. Humans are interacting with animals and the environment in ways that they haven’t in the past. A number of factors—globalization, urbanization, climate change, deforestation—are combining to make diseases emerge and spread faster.
So hopefully, that will change people’s perspective on both their personal behaviors and their investment in getting elected officials to actually care about public health.
We still need people to demand that their elected officials take health security as seriously as they take physical security. To me, that is the single biggest personal weakness that’s out there. If people start clamoring for more investment in public health to keep them safer, then they’re likely to be safer.
I will turn the question around on you a little bit, which is that if you asked me the same question—“What is the biggest thing an individual can do to stop crime in their community?”—there’s not a lot they can do, right? There’s no evidence that purchasing a firearm makes you safer in your home. And in fact, there’s a lot of evidence to show that it makes it more dangerous. There’s not a lot of evidence that security cameras are the things that help you. But investing in your local community makes it safer.
Nyce: Is it just that getting sick is fundamentally a communal problem?
Varma: Yes. That’s what public health is all about.
Nyce: [Laughs.] We just got to the definition of public health.
Varma: Yeah. You can do individual interventions. But they are less important than all of the things that we do at a community level. If you look at how mortality has changed in the past 150 years, the biggest improvements came from cleaning water, cleaning the air, making roads safer. All of these are things that governments, not individuals, have control over. Caroline Mimbs Nyce is a staff writer at The Atlantic.