The Premonition By Michael Lewis Highlights A Longstanding Need For Structural Reform Of The US Public Health Service

In the face of horrific death tolls and unspeakable trauma, there has been a continued refrain of “never again” through the pandemic. We want the small comfort of knowing that the deaths have not been entirely in vain. Yet history demonstrates that without radical change to the culture in which our infectious disease authorities operate, we are destined to repeat similar if not the same mistakes.

Many have placed the blame for America’s disastrous pandemic response on the atrocious leadership or lack thereof, of former President Donald Trump. While Trump has much to answer for, the blame does not lie solely with him, but also with the public health institutional failures.

Public health decisions regarding infectious disease outbreaks need to be just that, data-backed decisions that prioritize the health and lives of our entire population above all else. They need to be free from political and economic pressures and guided by experts, not the reactions of the public. Public health officials should not live in fear of being fired for making evidence-based but publicly unpopular decisions when the cost is human lives.

Containing an infectious disease outbreak takes swift and courageous decisions, yet the culture that has existed at the CDC for decades is one of complacency and caution which results in reckless endangerment to human lives. The focus is on procedure and precedent when one of the defining characteristics of an infectious disease outbreak is often novelty. They waste precious time trying to reach a consensus when it is often an impossible task. The very fact that the director of the CDC is appointed by and can be fired by the president rather than a council of scientific peers, creates a culture of biased decision making and yes-men.

Read the full article on Forbes

Originally published on Forbes on May 20, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.