WHILE THE PANDEMIC brought public health efforts front and center, those efforts—mask mandates, isolation and travel guidelines, and the need for virtual schooling—became glaring political targets. A new perspective in the Journal of Hospital Medicine describes how public health, which has also suffered reduced funding for decades, took very damaging hits in the past two-plus years.
The piece says the reasons for those hits include the following: politicians broadcasting conflicting messages; the scientific uncertainty around a newly emerging virus and how it spreads; a lack of alignment among federal, state and local public health offices; and an avalanche of disinformation due to social media. Add in a pandemic that’s dragged on far too long, and positive ratings of both public health and the CDC are in decline.
Going forward, the authors make several recommendations to diffuse the politicization of public health. Those include: Public health leaders need more training in—and experience with—public communication and messaging, and they must figure out how to coordinate and align their efforts across all governmental levels.
In addition, public health experts need to learn how to mobilize other sectors of the population—such as faith-based communities—to deliver messages and guidance. Public health officials also need law enforcement to back up mandates and orders, and they need more investment in data systems and more secure funding at state and local levels.