by Steven Battle
The mission of public health is to recommend policies and utilize procedures to ensure the health of a population and keep leaders from getting fired — or voted out of office. Ensuring a thriving economy and environment free of violence is the responsibility of civilian government authorities. This clearly implies that public health recommendations and policies are inherently political, and we are living with the repercussions of this reality now more than ever. As a physician who has completed residency training and board certification in both emergency medicine and preventive medicine/public health, and been practicing for over 20 years in military and civilian organizations, what follows is my high-altitude take on our current COVID-19 crisis.
The severity of public health counter-measures overwhelmingly reflects a political calculation. Public health authorities and civilian government leaders weigh multiple factors beyond the epidemiology or health care policy implications of interventions. All too frequently, when making decisions on interventions to improve the health of a population, the medical discipline of preventive medicine/public health takes a back seat to non–health care considerations.