Health Security

A Tale as Old as Time

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Photo by Jon Shriver
Photo by Jon Shriver

Throughout history, people have believed that staying healthy was simple. An apple a day would keep the doctor away. What changed? Our movement around the globe. It has blended the human race like never before. 

Historically, communicable diseases took years to travel on ships. Now they take mere hours as planes loaded with passengers fly from continent to continent. As a result, we are one global health community. 

Today’s public health crisis is not a matter of “us and them.” We are one entity. Collaboration and communication among the states in the U.S. and countries throughout the world is critical. For public health strategies to work, everyone must be on board. 

It’s a unique time in history, and the Covid-19 crisis has caused me to think about my grandparents. How would they react to the Covid-19 crisis? 

I grew up in Michigan and still have nearly 50 cousins in the state. My parents had seven children. We overflowed into a second pew every Sunday. A “two-pew family”. 

I always thought of my grandparents—both sets—as being reserved. Don’t get me wrong: they were amazing and I loved them. But now I’m thinking of what it might have been like for them, with a posse of 30 little children clamoring for hugs, along with handshakes and hugs from adults. In retrospect, maybe my grandparents were simply being physically aware, conscious of boundaries and best health practices. After all, they lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu, which ravaged the globe for two years, killing more than 100,000,000. 

Back then, the protocols were similar to today’s COVID19 mitigation efforts—school closings, forbidding group gatherings, physical distance by individuals, and washing of hands. 

As a child, after play I would come into the house and know I had to scrub my hands with Lava soap and a nail brush. When we went to church my mom would dip her gloved hand in the holy water. Even as a small child I thought it was a bad idea when churchgoers coughed into their hands and then reached for the communal holy water font. 

It’s dawning on me now that my grandparents and parents were addressing the threat of viruses not with a shot of hand sanitizer, but with behavioral hygiene and sanitary environments. 

So history—as it is wont to do—is repeating itself. And, as in the past, we know that physically distancing yourself and other basic precautions can be successful in bringing down the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Since founding Less Cancer in 2003 we have demonstrated how non-medical tools —lifestyle, education and policies—are powerful tools to overcome disease. The enemy is different during this crisis, but the defense is the same.

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