School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: The Butterfly Effect & Public Health Messaging

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All health is local and that may be the downfall of the messaging debacle of COVID19. We were looking to our national leaders to provide the guidance and it was absent. We struggled to find consistency in information flow from our most trusted institutions like the CDC, and it was confusing. We tried to explain the importance of wearing masks and keeping physical space between us while remaining socially connected, but it fell on deaf ears. Here we are, on the doorstep of Thanksgiving 2020, and just yesterday more than 1,000,000 people flew to visit relatives for the holiday. 

The number of COVID19 cases is surging in America. We account for more than 25% of all cases in the world. We have surpassed 250,000 deaths and have more than 12 million positive cases, adding more than 1 million in the past week. The abject failure of public health messaging is one of the many lessons to be unpacked when we do a national debrief of this disaster. 

The politicization of public health messaging is at the root cause of what went wrong with mask-wearing. Facts steeped in science have been hijacked by a political machine of misinformation that has cast doubt on the severity of COVID19. Public trust has been eroded, perhaps irreparably, and somehow the act of wearing a mask has been distilled to a social statement instead of a message about health and safety. What will happen when vaccines do become available? Will vaccinations fall the way of mask-wearing?

We can turn this behemoth messaging failure around because we must, we have no choice. Our energies have to be focused on reaching those closest to us first. We can build bridges of understanding through back channels. Think of it as a circuit, each connection creates a spark to the next one. Let’s employ the ‘butterfly effect,’ what happens in our own homes impacts the community, the town, the state, and then the country. 

The butterfly effect is the idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. The concept is imagined with a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon.

Of course, a single act like the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a typhoon. Small events can, however, serve as catalysts that act on starting conditions. – retrieved from Farnam Street Blog

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