December 7 that the bimonthly website of the U.S. Foreign Affairs published an article entitled “In the era of a pandemic, the United States is no exception”, which pointed out that the Biden administration should focus on grassroots groups in order to translate the public health advice of experts into changes among the general public. . The full text is excerpted as follows:
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of a committee of highly qualified scientific experts to advise on the coronavirus response is groundbreaking, but if Biden wants to do something truly groundbreaking, he should also invite international experts and community leaders to join the advisory board.
A global pandemic requires a global response, and we live in a connected world. Vaccines and treatments produced by scientific research conducted in one country need to be shared with other countries. Doctors and nurses migrated to every corner of the world for their work.
Raw materials for testing, diagnostics, protective gear and medical equipment are imported and exported through border crossings, while travelers who may carry the virus will cross the same border crossings every day.
The pandemic response rooted in global cooperation will make everyone safer. Preventing the spread of disease across borders requires a commitment to ensuring that all countries have health systems that work effectively to contain epidemics — and this shared responsibility is what “global health” means.
However, nationalism is not the only problem in the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus. Exceptionism is even more destructive, which leads the United States to refuse to recognize where it has to learn from other countries, let alone which countries it needs to learn from. Sadly, the United States may have missed the opportunity to follow the response of the governments of developed democracies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and EU members.
Countries plagued by denial of truth, racial discrimination and disinformation may have a difficult road to get out of the epidemic, but they are not out of help.
In September, the Zimbabwe-based Regional Network for Health Affirmations in Eastern and Southern Africa (EQUINET) collected case studies of a number of effective local responses to the coronavirus epidemic, including some cases from the United States. EQUINET found that the most effective responses did not focus on the government level, but rather involved community leaders.
Research shows that solidarity and watch-a-a-a-community will help people follow the best advice from public health authorities, thus mitigating the worst effects of the outbreak. The community itself is an actor who provides food to shelter-in-place, pools resources to help people in financial need, and actively encourages people to wear masks and social distancing.
The ongoing denial, disagreement and disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic will not be overcome from the top, but only through input into communities that know this resistance first-hand. Many inequities that restrict people’s ability to make healthy choices and the status of life are the easiest to understand, disclose and make public to people who encounter these conditions day after day.
For all of these reasons, the Biden administration should look at grassroots groups in order to translate the public health advice of experts into changes among the general public. Community leaders can help spread public health messages and identify speakers trusted by their audience.
However, if such a partnership between government-appointed experts and grassroots groups is to work, communities need to obtain resources. The Biden administration should establish or expand funding for community institutions through flexible contracts and consultations with community groups on how best to expand the public safety network to relieve the pressure on their own services. The real synergy between these communities and Washington experts can form a force large enough to reverse the tide of the epidemic.