The coronavirus, presents many parallels to public health issues that, as it unfolds, have the familiar ring of too little, too late.
Seemingly, we get to epidemic proportions, be it with diabetes, obesity, or even cancer, where the call to action seems as if it is just a little too late.
Historically, as a country, we seem to do what is convenient or within our reach instead of preventing any complex problem.
Prevention, for whatever reason, has been confused for worry, panic, and hysteria.
Prevention has historically been a best practice, and it is a low priority for the United States; our definition of precaution looks like hand-washing, which of course at this stage is more mitigative than preventative.
Health crises, as we are experiencing now with the coronavirus, impact community health, loss of life, and the economy on a global scale.
In the simplest of terms, we are a country that sees the metaphoric tidal wave coming and waits until we are wet before action is taken.
In conversation, I have heard things like, “Can you imagine if they responded to cancer prevention or even climate change in the way they handled the coronavirus?” Well, they have—after the fact. And in our hurry to catch up, we can see precisely how unprepared we genuinely are.
It is my belief and experience that people worry and panic more when there are no precautionary policies or actions in place. I believe that public concerns are being discounted or devalued as we have witnessed recently by some television opinionnaires.
People panic, especially when there is no one behind the wheel or when there is a lack of best practices set up to prevent this sort of thing.
Policy, in terms of public or community health education, can be as exacting and effective as medicine to a wound. Even better, it has the potential and history of actually preventing the wound.
Public health education and policy that work to prevent sickness save lives. Moreover, while unique from health care, they are often the best way to address either persistent public health issues or issues like the novel coronavirus pandemic.
We have seen education and policy win in the area of smoking, indoor tanning, oral health, and many other areas.
So, while now all attention must be put into mitigating this issue, there will be many lessons learned, and going forward, the priority must always be on public health and the prevention of cataclysmic outcomes.
Now, my hopes and prayers are that we, as a country, can support all who are sick and those who are helping the sick.