Wednesday , September 27 2023

Public Health: The unsung heroes

Monkeypox has spread around the globe and is making it difficult for the U.S. to maintain its safety.

Dr. Rochelle Walsky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that monkeypox is a pandemic similar to COVID-19. “We have been working extraordinarily hard, and we are still in a position where we can contain this,” She said.

Dr. Jonathan LaPook (CBS News) was asked. “There’s no crystal ball, of course, but do you see monkeypox getting out more widely to the general population?”

“I think we are going to see more cases before we see less, and that is because we will have more testing,” She responded. “We have more education out there, people know what they’re looking for and how to test for it.”

The number of cases of monkeypox in the United States has increased steadily to more than 2,800. Monkeypox can be contracted by anyone, but it is more common in gay and bisexual men, who have had sex with other men.

Walensky said, “To our knowledge right now, it does look like most of the transmission is happening with close, personal contact.”

The U.S. public healthcare system is front and center. “Sunday Morning” This would be an ideal time to look into the system’s actual capabilities.

Michelle Williams, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health “Why is public health different than the practice of medicine?”

“In medicine, it’s the individual that’s the patient; in public health, you can think of the individual, the community, the planet as the patient,” She responded.

Williams claimed that 270,000 health professionals in the country are unsung heroes. They aren’t appreciated enough because the public takes them for granted. “When public health works, nothing bad happens. So, you don’t notice that that child that had a spill on the bicycle got up and is just fine because they’re wearing a helmet,” She said.

Public health workers have a lot to do. These include eliminating diseases, reducing workplace injuries, ensuring clean water and better sanitation, reducing injuries from fires or car crashes, and keeping our food safe.

Tre Williams, an Oklahoma City-based health inspector, showed LaPook the way he does his job while he was at a restaurant. “Here I’m checking to make sure he’s not stacking dishes. You know, if you stack wet dishes on top of each other, it builds up bacteria. We don’t want that.”

“This is the kind of stuff that the general public has no idea about, right? They’re not seeing this?” LaPook.

“Right, right. Absolutely.”

Tre Williams, Oklahoma City’s health inspector, checks out a restaurant.  

CBS News

America’s history has been long in the making of its public health system. Boston, under the leadership of Paul Revere, established one of America’s first health departments in 1799.

In the United States, life expectancy has increased by 25 years since 1900 due to advances in safety and health.

Local health departments still had to adapt and adapt during the COVID pandemic. Patrick McGough from Oklahoma City’s City/County Health Department explained the program for flu shots, boosters, and vaccines. “We’re providing this service free to the public. People just drive on through. They don’t have to have an appointment, nothing! It’s warmer, it’s friendly, you’re in your own car.”

Oklahoma City, drive-thru vaccination clinic 

CBS News

The public health system structure is complex. It includes local and state departments as well as educational institutions, private sector, and top government agencies such the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health. Each branch of the system is not managed by one person.


CBS News

The technology to securely share information electronically, for example, has been around for many decades. Yet, at the height the pandemic, doctors were faxing orders to the Oklahoma City/County Health Department for COVID testing.

LaPook enquired. “Why in the world would anybody still need to use a fax?”

“Basically it’s about the doctors’ offices,” McGough responded. “They don’t all have secure forms of transferring information about you as a patient.

“He stated that we need a health information exchange that is available at all times so that hospitals, primary care physicians and health departments can share information quickly and easily.”

This isn’t what we have. Instead, there’s a patchwork of reporting systems across the country that don’t effectively talk with each other – critical during the early stages of outbreaks like COVID and monkeypox.

Dr. Walensky stated that there are many more problems. When Dr. Walensky was asked if CDC has the power to request information from public health agencies in the country, she answered, “Yes.” “We do not.”

In fact, you can report cases from anywhere in the country. voluntary.

LaPook asked “Do the data systems exist right now to adequately collect all the information needed?”

“They don’t,” Walensky said. “We’ve made a lot of progress during COVID, but we still have a lot of work to do. It would really be helpful if we had the capacity, the data systems, the workforce, the laboratory systems in place, the public health infrastructure truly in place, so that we could deliver health to all of America.”

“Why don’t we have those systems in place right now?”

“There has been a chronic, decades-long underfunding of a public health infrastructure in America,” She responded.

Michelle Williams also stated that the public health system is facing a brain drain. “We know that burnout is real and pervasive,” She said.

Patrick McGough replied that he was on vacation for the last time when he was asked: “Um, I haven’t had a vacation.”

According to some estimates, more than 38,000 public health jobs at both the local and state level have disappeared since 2008.

The colliding of politics and public health has not helped. McGough, Oklahoma City, is feeling the heat. “Yes, lots of hate mail, lots of hate email, texts that were awful, all kinds of stuff,” He said.

LaPook enquired. “So, when people question your motives, what does that feel like?”

“I see that I have staff on the front lines giving everything they have: their family time, their own health, their own finances. And then to be attacked and called all kinds of things, it didn’t just happen because the pandemic arrived. Something else happened. Something caused people to lose faith. And it’s to the public’s demise. It may do away with public health.”

Michelle Williams sees Harvard as a positive place despite all these challenges. There has been a 50% increase in applications to Harvard’s public health school over the past year.

What is the best way to explain this? “They are running towards the opportunity to have an impact in this world,” She said. “And I am inspired by that. Because we are going to prevail. It will take more time, but we are going to prevail.”

For more information, please visit:

Jay Kernis and Julie Kracov produced the story. Joseph Frandino & George Pozderec, editors. 

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