Learning from the (Recent) Past by Manon Parry

Op de website van PULSE Network, Medical & Health Humanities, een netwerk van mensen in Nederland die werken op het snijvlak van gezondheid, geneeskunde en geesteswetenschappen, schreef Manon Parry een Engelstalig artikel naar aanleiding van de huidige SARS-CoV-2 epidemie.

Manon Parry is professor of medical history and coordinates the MA in Medical and Health Humanities at VU University

Learning from the (Recent) Past

The Medical and Health Humanities have a lot to teach us about how to respond to COVID-19.
1. is the laboratory of public health. Although the context of a specific outbreak shapes its trajectory, commonalities can still be found between from centuries ago and the pandemic today. But we seldom take advantage of that archive of evidence. In fact, we have found it difficult to learn even from the events of a few months ago. Whether that is down to complacency or anxiety, assuming that “it couldn’t happen here” meant we lost valuable time to act and prepare.
2. Panic about panic prevents timely action. Leaders overestimate the risk of mass hysteria and underestimate the capacity of citizens to respond. When governments withhold information and delay the implementation of restrictive measures in order to prevent public “overreaction,” they lose credibility. Many people will then take their own steps, but will lose faith in their leadership. And if the response needs to be on a scale that individuals cannot mobilise without state assistance,….

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