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Community Caring - The real meaning of public health
Trail Daily Times - 9/18/2023
by Dr. Alex Nataros
Since the early days of 2020, we have seen rollercoaster swings of public sentiment towards figures like doctors Anthony Fauci, Bonnie Henry and Theresa Tam. For Dr. Henry, her "Be kind. Be calm. Be safe" rang like a cheered anthem in those early days of 7 p.m. pots clanging in support of our frontline healthcare providers. Fast forward years later, one is more likely to find anger and frustration directed towards Dr. Henry from British Columbians across the political spectrum - those claiming she did too much and those that think she's still doing too little to address public health crises of COVID-19 and the tainted drug supply.
Now the challenge for the public is figuring out where you can turn for an unbiased source of information regarding your health. This proves increasingly challenging in the "infodemic" that social media and misinformation efforts have fuelled, amidst a progressive loss of independent effective journalism.
In this context, I would offer that your family doctor is a good place to start.
We are trained over a decade in critically reviewing data, and distinguishing the signal from the noise. We are licensed by a college that actively ensures we are serving our patients and the public health. If we recommend treatments that are not based in evidence or are potentially harmful, we are subject to discipline or potential loss of licensure. We take professional responsibility for our patient's health - hundreds and often thousands of individuals in our community. In that way, practicing physicians are the only individuals in the healthcare system that are directly accountable. That matters.
Are we perfect? No way. Do we agree with each other? Often not. But where there is an emerging consensus among family doctors, it's worth paying attention.
Which brings us to September 2023: A time when we all want to move on and forget about COVID-19. Too bad. The reality is that we shouldn't put our heads in the sand.
The emerging consensus is clear: We are facing a new COVID-19 wave, combined with anticipated influenza and RSV fall seasons, in the context of a collapsing health-care system. Long-COVID (eg. Complications of COVID-19 infection that last for months-to-years) are more common and more disabling than most public health and political leaders acknowledge. Hybrid Immunity (eg. Your immune system defence from prior infection and/or immunization) wanes and is unpredictably effective. Tight fitting masks, preferably N-95 respirators or KN95 masks like we provider free at North Island Community Health Centre, are an important part of the defence against infection.
Your own actions should meet this challenge: Self-test and stay home when sick; Mask Up in health-care spaces and if you're high risk in all public settings; Get your booster immunization as soon as it is available; if you do get COVID-19 and have other medical conditions, seek medical attention - you may be eligible for the effective antiviral Paxlovid.
With her early words compelling us to be kind, calm and safe, Dr. Henry was correct - caring for each other and our community is central to an effective response to a health threat. Community caring is our vision with the North Island Community Health Centre, and I'm grateful we live in a community where it is possible.
For ideas/topics you would like explored, please email suggestions to: alexnatarosMD@gmail.com or find me online Facebook/Twitter "Alex Nataros MD" Note this is Not for personal medical questions – for these you should present to clinic/emerg or call 8-11.