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Malcolm Gladwell: The lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic

April 10, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

Munk Dialogue, April 9, 2020

Rudyard Griffiths: What do you think will be the best thing coming out of this?

Malcolm Gladwell: If I had to identify the best thing that could come out of this, it is a resurgence in the profile and importance of the public health community. If you look back on the 20th Century, what is the great success story of the 20th Century? It is public health. It dwarfs every other thing we invented in the 20th Century. The 20th Century is the century where a group of public health professionals stepped forward, took control of the way we live our lives, and managed to eradicate a whole raft of extraordinary diseases, fundamentally changed the health care profile of billions of people around the world, permanently made lives better for untold people in every corner of the planet. To me that’s the story. Those successes were so rich and so dramatic, that I think we began to take them for granted, and we pushed the public health world aside, and we went on to other things. Right? We fell in love with fancy technology, and we fell in love with the Internet, and we fell in love with all kinds of other… and we silenced and marginalized all of those (public health) voices, to our enduring discredit. And what I hope happens out of this is that we invite public health folks back to the center of the conversation. And we say, you know what? You know who should be leading the conversation about the health of our population? The public health people. They’re the ones. They have the most important lessons to teach us. They’re the ones whose priorities are in order. They’re the ones who are looking for resurgent viruses coming out of some distant corner of China. I hope we’re going to invite them back to center stage, and I hope they remain there for a good long time.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

May we act on the lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

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Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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