I was catching up on all of the news of the day, it was filled with updates on monkeypox (MPX), polio in wastewater in New York, and increasing COVID activity and I became more and more anxious about school reopening. Then I came across this Tweet that perfectly sums up the cognitive dissonance of the moment, “Public health responsibility at an individual level is an oxymoron.” Where do we go from here is the question that weighs most heavily on my mind.
How do we protect students and staff when it seems the CDC is on the cusp of dropping all COVID mitigation strategies, including testing, tracing, and quarantining? Are they making this decision because they are going to ramp up responses to MPX and polio? Or is this purely a response to the overwhelming public pressure demanding individual choice in the era of “don’t tell me what to do.”
In my effort to understand how we have arrived at the politicization of the CDC, I found this helpful article: JAMA Polarized Public Opinion About Public Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic Political Divides and Future Implications. The quote from the article captures the issue.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift in the public’s perception of the field of public health away from its historic reputation as a fact-based, science-centered discipline toward a politicized field whose role is defined very differently by those in each political party.
For those who believe that we, specifically school nurses, need to separate healthcare from politics, it is no longer possible or recommended. School nursing recently updated NASN’s most recent edition of School Nursing 4th Edition Scope and Standards of Practice to address being politically engaged under Standard 8. Advocacy.
I am anxiously waiting for the updated CDC guidance on our many outstanding public health emergencies. I will remain politically engaged because nursing calls us to advocate for our students, our school, and communities. Public health, which is based on public policy is an inherently political form of healthcare, it asks us to care for the population. Our systems of care are under severe stress and public will has more than waned, it has revolted at measures meant to care for the greater good. Buckle your seatbelts friends, a great example of a public health lifesaving measure, it’s going to continue to be a turbulent ride.
Findling MG, Blendon RJ, Benson JM. Polarized Public Opinion About Public Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Political Divides and Future Implications. JAMA Health Forum. 2022;3(3):e220016. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2022.0016