The idiom “what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over” can, in a certain sense, be applied to public health. The not-for-profit organization Resolve to Save Lives recently released its second edition of “Epidemics that didn’t happen”. This organization is led by a former CDC director, Tom Frieden, and partners with various stakeholders, including communities, in several countries to prevent deaths from cardiovascular disease and make the world safer from epidemics.
This second edition includes successful containments of outbreaks of different diseases, mostly in 2021, Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea, Nipah in India, cholera in Burkina Faso, rabies in Tanzania, influenza on a cruise ship in Brazil, and dengue in Indonesia, related in 7 short chapters. I wanted to share this edition with the UF community because I believe that, overwhelmed by all the bad news surrounding us, especially the ones related to the epidemics that did happen, sometimes we forget to think about the structures, systems, and dynamics that do work. We can learn both from our successes and failures.
Doing this helps us remember the positive factors in our everyday life, to not take things for granted, and to not let our guards down.
Citing a member of the Commonwealth Fund (an American foundation), Shanoor Seervai, “success in public health […] is often invisible — we don’t notice until the system breaks down.” Public health works in the backstage, keeping people safe through, for example, vaccines, surveillance of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and advising on healthy standards for drinking water, amongst others. In general (even if I must admit that there are some notable exceptions apart from the obvious ones- COVID-19, polio, and monkeypox), we have gotten used in the United States to not seeing severe outbreaks of communicable diseases and risk resting in our laurels. But it is important to keep things that have been working well continuing to do so and improving where we can. Complacency in the realm of public health can be risky.