Thursday, November 11, 2021

Sandro Galea's "The Contagion Next Time"

Sandro Galea is Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. He has been named an "epidemiology innovator" by Time and one of the "World's Most Influential Scientific Minds" by Thomson Reuters. A native of Malta, he has served as a field physician for Doctors Without Borders and held academic positions at Columbia University, University of Michigan, and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Galea applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Contagion Next Time, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls within the chapter of the book entitled “Politics, Power, and Money.” As you might imagine, since my book is about how we can prepare our nation and its people for the next pandemic, I have a lot to say on how these three things insect in America today. This page offers some examples of how public health mandates and advice became politically-charged during our current pandemic experience. I’m specifically writing about the wearing of masks to help prevent the spread of the COVID19 virus, and how even the hospitalization of President Trump with COVID19 didn’t change the politicization of this disease, which is something that surprised me:
The political divide during COVID-19, with some Americans painstakingly adhering to mask-wearing and physical-distancing while other behaved as if times were more or less normal, was a striking example of how politics shapes attitudes towards health. It is by no means the first example of such a divide.
I think page 99 of my book would offer a browser a fair example of my writing throughout the book. In all chapters, I try to connect how things have been done during our current pandemic to how they could be done differently—and better—in the future to prevent another such terrible public health crisis from occurring. And I try to use examples and stories that will draw in the reader, and help make these ideas more concrete. Page 99 does that well, I think.

But I do not feel the test offers a browser a good look at my overarching thesis of the book, which is that we must do more as a nation to fight against racial and economic inequality if we hope to improve health for all Americans, whether or not we are in the midst of another pandemic. This is a big subject—bigger than any author could fit on one page. In the book, I explain how our health as a nation has improved drastically over the past 100 years, and the steps and changes that must be made at the national, local, and individual level to help ensure everyone can be healthy in America in the future, no matter the color of their skin or the state of their bank account.

It was fun to read through page 99 again. I find when I give talks, people say, “but didn’t we already know that?” And that is part of the point: some of the facts will be apparent to readers, as we have lived through this moment together. But if you read beyond 99, particularly towards the latter half of the book, I hope to create an urgent charge for us to re-assess the very foundations that we live in and see daily, the history that we may take for granted, and the potential for change in the future. Given that we mainly passed the Page 99 test, I encourage readers to take a peek and keep going—to see how these foundational forces in plain sight shape much of what happened and, more importantly, how we can shift them to make the world’s response a better, fairer one when the next pandemic emerges.
Visit Sandro Galea's website.

--Marshal Zeringue