Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Public health is important.  There are more and more of us on the planet, and a greater fraction of us are living are living in densely populated cities.  The study of public health issues is the study of evolution in action.  To a microbe, a bacteria, a virus, a parasite, a fungus, the 7 billion of us represent 7 billion exploitable habitats.  7 billion homes full of food and water and shelter, to any organism that can fight or fool our immune systems.  We are megatons of food and a very exploitable habitat.  Given how we as a species deal with macroscopic threats to our individual survival, like tigers and bears, you'd think we'd have a better response to threats to our civilization.

Public health, measuring and improving the health of our population, is not glamorous work.  It's community clinics, it's sex education birth control and prenatal care.  It's vaccinations, health education, nutrition and sanitation.  It's exercise and diet.  It's hospitalization and hospice care.  It's meals on wheels and help for the disabled.  It's mental health services.  It's creating a system where we can thrive as human beings, and not allowing ignorance, laziness or profit seeking to dictate policy. 

And the USA is nowhere near as good as it thinks it is.  HMOs and insurance companies dictate standards of care that turn regular visits into bureaucratic dystopias, and doctors into assembly line workers.  Our health research efforts are often directed at the ailments of the affluent rather than those of the far more numerous global poor.  Our efforts to vaccinate for and eradicate polio, have been hamstrung by CIA involvement in Pakistan.  When the recommendations of public health run counter to those of the gun industry, it's public health officials who are silenced.

And so when a nurse I know voices concerns over Ebola, I listen.  It is a nasty disease, a terrible way to die, and a far bigger deal than it ever needed to be.  As west Africa shows us, it can tear through areas with weak medical infrastructure.  Areas of weak medical infrastructure exist on every inhabited continent. So what we need to fight Ebola now, and the next crisis next week or next year is a coordinated international effort.  If you have the cash to spare both the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders could use your help. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a nasty disease, but at this point it's just being used as a tool for panic. Hey, it keeps the rubes scared, so it's useful until the next shiny thing comes along. The CDC and the Texas hospital did some stupid shit, otherwise it whould have been over as soon as it started.

    Meanwhile, how many people have died of the regular ol' flu this year? How many got vaccinated? How many have been gunned down? Oh, no sorry, we don't talk about those things.

    People are very, very bad at evaluating risk. Like, horrifically, comically bad.

    The only thing I'd like to ever hear about ebola again is a report about who exactly is paying for all this expensive care. I can't imagine these poor folks getting flown around on special private ebola-jets are getting it for free, that'd just be unAmerican. We couldn't have that. I hope their surviving relatives are being billed [/snark].