The Public Health System

November 20, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 41
Can it handle pandemics and other medical challenges?
By Alan Greenblatt


Some health experts warned for years ahead of the coronavirus pandemic that the nation was unprepared for a major outbreak. Advocates complain that public health receives generous funding after a crisis erupts, but that it lacks sustained funding to build up the infrastructure and talent needed to address fresh challenges as they emerge. Questions surrounding public health have become politicized, with people divided along party lines over disease control measures such as masks and vaccinations. Political interference has undermined the credibility of public health institutions and expert advice. This makes it harder for the nation's patchwork system — with responsibilities divided among the federal, state and local levels — to coordinate a response. The challenges of dealing with the pandemic, meanwhile, have shifted attention and resources away from long-standing problems such as addiction and suicide. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to fund health efforts generously once he takes office, but experts say the pandemic has made clear that public health requires more sustained support than it has received for decades.

Photo of former teacher Rachel Bardes protesting in front of the Orange County Public Schools headquarters in Orlando, Fla. (Getty Images/Tribune News Service/Orlando Sentinel/Joe Burbank)
Former teacher Rachel Bardes protests in front of the Orange County Public Schools headquarters in Orlando, Fla., over Gov. Ron DeSantis' return-to-school order despite spiking coronavirus cases in the state. Public health experts have found their credibility questioned as the U.S. health care system struggled to address the crisis. (Getty Images/Tribune News Service/Orlando Sentinel/Joe Burbank)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 02, 2022  Long COVID
Oct. 29, 2021  COVID-19 Vaccines
Jan. 08, 2021  Health and Society
Nov. 20, 2020  The Public Health System
Jul. 17, 2020  The Pandemic Economy
Jun. 26, 2020  Zoonotic Diseases
May 08, 2020  CTE and Athletes
Jan. 24, 2020  Conquering Rare Diseases
Sep. 13, 2019  Measles Resurgence
Nov. 30, 2018  Obesity Crisis
Jun. 15, 2018  Superbug Threat
Jun. 02, 2017  Pandemic Threat
Jul. 22, 2016  Mosquito-Borne Disease
Feb. 13, 2015  Emerging Infectious Diseases
Nov. 08, 2013  Lyme Disease
Jan. 06, 2012  Preventing Disease
Apr. 02, 2010  Breast Cancer
Sep. 12, 2008  Heart Health
Aug. 24, 2007  Fighting Superbugs
Jan. 13, 2006  Avian Flu Threat
Jun. 20, 2003  Fighting SARS
Apr. 05, 2002  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mar. 09, 2001  Diabetes Epidemic
Mar. 02, 2001  Mad Cow Disease
Dec. 24, 1999  Asthma Epidemic
Aug. 05, 1983  Multiple Sclerosis
May 27, 1983  Chronic Pain: The Hidden Epidemic
Sep. 24, 1976  Influenza Control
Sep. 16, 1970  Virus Research
Mar. 14, 1956  Progress Against Polio
May 25, 1955  Degenerative Diseases
May 25, 1949  Chronic Disease
Mar. 01, 1924  The Foot and Mouth Disease
Congress Actions
Conservatism and Liberalism
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Health Insurance and Managed Care
Infectious Diseases
Internet and Social Media
Lobbying and Special Interests
Medical Profession and Personnel
Medical Research and Advocacy
Party Politics
Party Politics
Protest Movements
Workplace Safety and Worker's Compensation