When we examine the human and economic impacts of a public health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that there is a strong correlation. Investing in the development and maintenance of a stronger public health system for our nation – in all 50 states, our territories and tribal lands, would be the beginning of a positive, logical response to this crisis. Educational programs to improve the health literacy and health behavior of our populations are also needed, so individuals can improve their health status. Reducing the educational costs for students pursuing a career in the health professions will support efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of our doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Lower educational debt will allow more newly graduated health professionals to pursue careers in primary care and to locate their practices in medically underserved rural areas and inner cities.
Strengthening our nation’s public health service, and our state public health programs will result in America being better prepared to plan for, anticipate, and effectively address future pandemics.
The health of our population and the health of our nation’s economy will be much stronger in the future if we begin to make these investments now. The health of America’s people and America’s economic health are both needed to ensure a healthy nation.
Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., is president emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine and was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 1989-1993.