By Jane Moriarty
One of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s stated “essential public health services” is to “create, champion, and implement policies, plans, and laws that impact health.”
Yet, as the U.S. slogs through its third COVID winter, one thing is clear: personal responsibility and autonomy are at the heart of public health messaging. As CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky famously said, “your health is in your hands.”
In other words, CDC and other public health bodies now highlight personal responsibility and autonomy, and minimize the institutional ability to champion policies and laws that would improve the health and safety of the citizenry.
Given the comparatively poor results that the U.S. has had compared to other similarly-situated countries that focus more on the common good, it is time for our public health entities to reinvigorate their role as a force of legal and moral suasion to protect the public’s health.
The moral value of protecting the health of the public should be at the forefront of their messaging. Personal responsibility and autonomy are no match for the reality of commodified and unavailable health care, internet disinformation, health vulnerabilities, age-related vulnerabilities, the lack of paid sick leave, poverty, and the plight of the institutionalized.