Many of the health threats that plagued Americans several decades ago—such as unclean drinking water, bacterial and viral illnesses, and the consequences from behaviors such as smoking cigarettes and not wearing seatbelts—have been successfully diminished. These health threats were reduced thanks in part to the work of public health initiatives.
However, a significant public health threat lingers without much hope on the horizon for a definitive resolution – the threat of gun violence.
Unfortunately, results from a recent Axios/Ipsos American Health Index poll indicate that the majority of Americans surveyed now name gun violence in their communities as the number one health threat, followed closely by the threat of the opioid epidemic.
The discussion of gun violence is intrinsically linked to political divisiveness. However, regardless of political lines, the threat to everyday Americans’ safety remains. The more that public health communicators and health organizations can reframe the issue of gun violence as a salient public health threat, the more progress may be made to ensure that Americans are safe.
Here’s what you need to know about the state of gun violence in 2023 and how this kind of violence represents a threat to public health.
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The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) declaration came on May 11, 2023. One significant lesson emerging from the COVID crisis is that the U.S. and most of the world were unprepared for it. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies stress that it is never too soon to prepare for the next global emergency.
Will the U.S. be able to respond to the next global public health crisis?
“We Cannot Kick This Can Down the Road”
While it may feel like the country is winding down from the effects of COVID, many public health leaders and experts warn against complacency and inaction. Instead, they urge governments to negotiate policies and enact legislation to prepare for the next pandemic.
At this year’s United Nations annual assembly, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the inevitability of the next pandemic. He claimed, “We cannot kick this can down the road” because it is only a matter of when, not if, the next public health threat will emerge.
The WHO is drafting a pandemic treaty that the member states will vote on in next year’s general assembly. This new treaty represents an agreement including more than 200 recommended actions countries can take to improve global security. Also, the treaty’s call to action covers the entire spectrum from pathogen identification to widespread vaccination.
Individual and systemic racism affects virtually every aspect of public life. It is especially pervasive in medicine and public health. Being Black, indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC) can be harmful to your health.
The U.S. Congress and several local and state governments have declared racism a public health crisis. While these declarations are not legally binding, they convey that racial and cultural justice is necessary to safeguard all citizens’ health. Racism at individual and societal levels negatively impacts vulnerable populations’ mental and physical health. It also prevents members of marginalized groups from receiving equitable and adequate healthcare.
Understanding why racism is a public health emergency can shed light on the health-related harms of racism and bigotry. It also stimulates efforts to remedy the injustices and improve the general health of all Americans.
Why Is Racism a Public Health Emergency?
A public health emergency occurs when the effects or consequences of a public health threat are pervasive enough to overwhelm the organizations and facilities responsible for responding to it. In most cases, policymakers and community leaders cannot legally enforce emergency declarations. Nevertheless, they serve as a call to action to review and revise current policies and practices that allow the emergency to permeate.