Missing the Mark

A Closing Commentary for the Year…

Sanjay, Sanjay – I was about ready to turn off the news this morning (12/29/21) when CNN offered up their “Top 10 Health Care Stories of the Year”. As an avid health care person, I waited in anticipation as they introduced Sanjay Gupta, MD – the wonderful physician commentator for CNN. But, I was disappointed in their list. Numbers #1 through #7 related to the coronavirus – which is legitimately a huge story. #8 was the shutdown of the Olympic Games, #9 was the tragedy of >100,000 deaths from drug overdoses primarily due to the ubiquitous availability of Fentanyl; and, #10 I couldn’t remember.

While I absolutely concur that the pandemic is a big story, we are missing the forest for the trees. Underlying the pandemic are a couple of major issues, including:

  1. The use of mRNA as the vehicle for creating vaccines is MASSIVE! In the history of mankind, we’ve never been able to go from sequencing to vaccine production to distribution as quickly as we accomplished with this pandemic. And, it was the use of mRNA technology that helped to accomplish that feat. Furthermore, mRNA technology will go down as a potential solution for cancer treatment as we across the board. We’re on the verge of an entirely new modality for the treatment of all sorts of diseases from my perspective,
  2. The massive disparities that exist in American society related to health care access continues to be the untold story of contemporary health care. It is a story that does not have the sex appeal of a pandemic but is the underbelly of our existing health care system – and, it must be addressed,
  3. The loss of health care workers will – in retrospect – become one of the major stories over the next couple of years. We are disproportionately reliant upon an aging health care workforce. Not only is the pandemic stressful resulting in early retirement or simply withdrawal but the backfill is not occurring as needed; and,
  4. We should expect that global pandemics will become more the norm. If we are going to foster and support a global economy, global travel, global connectedness – we should expect that the spread of disease across artificial borders on maps will become an increasing problem. There is a need for an “international” response to the spread of disease not a country-by-country response. In a sense, we need to internationalize the capabilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that we can more effectively respond to worldwide health care problems.

I encourage my readers to add to the list! Again, while the pandemic is important, it subsumes a raft of other important stories that are too frequently left on the cutting floor. We – in the health care community – need to raise up the other concerns that are equally important if we are going to impact the “health” of the people. Consider it. We can add to the list in my next first-of-the-year-2022 edition of The Fickenscher Files. More later…as always…

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