Elephant in COVID-19’s Room
The spin away from the“inconvenient truths” in the current COVID-19 crisis, represents business and politics at their worse.
In business and politics, controlling the narrative towards what will win customers, build a brand, or gain a captive audience of followers, can be the way towards profits or power. People’s awareness and attention, unfortunately, gets diverted away from critical issues that need action. Not attending to these vital issues is a formula for disaster and recurrence of tragedies like the deadly pandemics from COVID-19.
Where should attention be focused?
Even at the height of the U.S. COVID-19 (CV19) crisis, politicians and business with strictly for-profit, self-serving motive, and not any charitable or philanthropic intent, still seem to prevail and thrive. People assume that everyone in time of crisis is pulling for the common good and that altruism prevails. The unscrupulous will ignore science, blame others, or promulgate conspiracy theories and false narratives. There is, in certain respects, an attempt to “dumb-down” the population or to keep people away from the truth, accurate information, and education.
Increased vulnerability of the population grows when the economy is in crisis with increased job loss and failing businesses, and a more substantial portion of the community is sinking lower into despair and poverty. Marketers and the aspiring political leader often play to people’s worse fears with false messages of hope and prosperity, offering promises and solutions if one sign’s up for their leadership or buys their product. In history, there have occurred numerous changes and shifts to the extreme far-right or left, away from democracy. Human dignity and rights get trampled by dictatorships or autocratic rule. The susceptibility to these disruptive changes often occurs at times of economic downturn and social disruption.
Global warming and the growing climate crisis need the full attention of the public and our leaders, not only because it jeopardizes the earth’s at-risk environment and ecosystem, but the sustainable future of the planet as well. Global warming and the already severe alterations in climate pattern and coastal flooding is possibly a factor in the development of new deadly viral agents and pandemics that could contribute to the increased susceptibility of populations to disease. For instance, the massive storms and droughts that have displaced large populations contributed to migration, poverty, and people seeking refuge. People often end up in compact and unsanitary, densely populated areas, with compromised food supplies, and lack of availability of medical services.
New directions may solve old problems.
The failure of government, public services, leadership, scientists, and industry, has been in the inadequate preparation for an epidemics or pandemics of this proportions. What appears needed is better methods and technology to produce vaccines more rapidly, and to have a more considerable amount of reserves of necessary health care materials, resources, and equipment. There has been a lack of global cooperation and consortium building to develop and manage the occurrences of pandemics or global crises.
Social scientists and governments have significant concerns about overpopulation and the march of technology faster than can be understood and managed. Overpopulation, growth, and technology with automation, will continually contribute to more scarcity of employment and loss of jobs. Such changes also would lead to more concentration of wealth and resources in the hands of a smaller number of people, large businesses, and manufacturers.
Health changes can modify outcomes.
CV19 has caused an excessive mortality and death rate in minority, disadvantaged, or non-privileged populations. The virus appears to be more deadly in people made vulnerable to more underlying health issues that are more prevalent in minority populations. Increase at-risk people would be especially those of color, Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and people living at or below poverty levels. Other contributors would be the lack of access to quality healthcare, medication, higher unemployment, racism, overcrowding in housing, or living in higher density parts of urban areas. The areas where these at-risk populations live often have more pollution and closer proximity to factories or sources of pollution.
Many health conditions can potentially contribute to more severe illness and death from CV19. A list of frequent contributors would include immune deficiencies, cancer, heart disease, undiagnosed infections, obesity, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, smoking, drug addiction, untreated mental illness, people on multiple medications, respiratory ailment, asthma, lung disease as COPD, diabetes, hypertension, and the presence of increased infirmity as in older population. There has been an exceptionally high death rate in nursing homes. Many of the elderly residents have many compromising health conditions and are living in high-density living arrangements, with sometimes marginal care, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity.
The current severe illness and death in the vulnerable discussed above, bring up the major public health issues that have not got the attention or priority needed, in governmental and public programming, and funding. The association and higher risk of death in particular populations are well studied and reported. Areas well examined would include the risk of poor nutrition, diet, and obesity with the associated degenerative diseases as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The higher degree of these conditions or illnesses has already been demonstrated in communities at high risk as Black, Latino, and minority communities, as noted above. Another example is the high rate of death from addiction to opioids, heroin, synthetic heroin, and fentanyl. Deaths from overdoses are well-known. Still, adequate public resources have not gone towards the opioid epidemic and the high fatality rate.
Solutions are possible with the help of informed leaders and focus on identified critical problems.
Public attention did seem to bring improvement in the high rates of lung disease, Cancer, COPD with better control of tobacco products and pressure on the industry to curb its marketing of their product. Of course, now we have vaping, which needs scrutiny and an increase in public awareness as a problem. The same populations are affected by the health-compromising conditions noted above are similar to those that suffered the highest number of deaths with CV19.
If now, more people and government leaders were focused on the real issues and needs at this time of CV19 crisis or in non-crisis times, what would be the immediate changes or interventions? First would be, in a more unified way, to call out business and governmental leaders that distract or lead the public attention away from all the critical issues at hand. Support or influence community, state, and federal leaders to direct government funding and programming to better address specific populations or communities at need. Essential will be the need for reliable, informed, and committed leaders at the federal level to provide adequate coordination of the local efforts and programs.
There are many areas of concern. It will require everyone to stick to science and public health research. It will need strong advocacy to bring the programs and funding to the vulnerable populations and areas. For example, now that we have identified the communities at the highest risk for severe illness and death from CV19, lets set up target services, health education, and medical resources for these specific areas and populations.
Efforts would include building up public health education, services, clinics, and hospital services in the areas of highest demand and need. For-profit hospitals and private medical practices and facilities would have to team up with federal funding and public healthcare programs to bring the positive change needed.
Being inattentive or ignorant of situations that need a remedy, is a set-up for another crisis, recurrent high death rates, and future pandemics. So, let keep our eyes and ears on the real issues and get our public leaders in line with the real needs and what direction their efforts need to take.
Thank you for your interest and review of this article. You are welcome to make comments below.
Ron Parks MD
If you or a loved one needs help or guidance about any mental, emotional, physical, or related spiritual health issues, consultation is available directly with Dr. Parks by telephone or telemedicine services like Skype or VSee. To schedule a session or if you need a question answered, fill in the contact form at https://parksmd.com/scheduling/. Hopefully, I will be able to correspond with you directly about questions or address them in a future article or in my periodic newsletters. see the post on Expert Mentoring
**The above is for informational and educational purposes only, not as medical or mental health advice. It is the reader’s responsibility to direct personal medical or mental health questions to their primary care provider and specialty physicians. The information and statements contained in this material are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or to replace the recommendations or advice given to you by your primary or direct care providers.
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Lead-in photo for the article: © Victor Zastolskiy/123rf.com – Elephant in COVID-19’s Room