February 2021 President’s Message

February 2021 President’s Message

Physicians need to support public health workers

by Stephen J. Grindel, DO —

While growing up in the ’60s, I would hear every night on television about the Vietnam War. These war stories ran daily from my childhood through adolescence. It was not news to me; it was the same story every day. I became numb to the reality of war.

Fast-forward 50 years, and we face a similar white-noise situation with the lead story on the nightly news: the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID, COVID, COVID” is all we seem to hear in the news, which causes some people to stop paying attention. Some are tired of the isolation and the mandates and are growing frustrated. Others have bought into conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the virus, masks and vaccines. Far too many people are taking out their fears and frustrations on public health workers.

During this crucial time, we need to support and laud our public health officers for the exceptional work they are doing under extremely stressful conditions. I wish to thank those at the state and local level – especially Sedgwick County Health Officer Garold Minns, MD – for all their efforts to save lives in Kansas. Many of them have been publicly criticized and personally threatened for doing their job. It is sad but not a surprise that 15% of all public health officers in Kansas have resigned.

We in the Medical Society can support our public health officials and help cut through the white noise. We need to take their message into our own practices and into our daily living by our actions and words. Each of us has considerable influence on the public regarding health issues. We need to emphasize the need for mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing and limiting social gatherings. The public will be watching how we handle the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a recent JAMA article, the federal government undermined science and sent conflicting messages to the public, in addition to politicizing public health, which is causing social distrust. As leaders in the medical community, we must emphasize science and facts regarding COVID-19. We may wish to help educate with posters or informational handouts. The Medical Society produced public service TV commercials with some of our members talking about the importance of following public health guidance. Another method of informing the public is through social media.

A JAMA article last month said that “misinformation is a public health crisis.” We must all dispel the myths regarding the coronavirus and support the work of the public health officers in our area. This is the most rapid method of controlling the coronavirus and stabilizing our society.