"Public Health" Is Not What Most People Think
By Pierre Lemieux
There is a difference between, on the one hand, fighting epidemics of contagious diseases and, on the other hand, what is called “public health.” In reality, public health is basically a political movement that aims at increasing government intervention in the health area as well as in other areas of life.
I provide a few examples of this in a comment on the Reason Foundation’s website (“Public Health Officials Far Too Often Ignore the Costs and Trade-Offs Involved In Policy Decisions,” April 7, 2020). Three short excerpts, even if other parts of the article are also, I think, very relevant to the current Covid-19 crisis:
The humongous failures of public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), should raise serious doubts about their effectiveness.
Many might be surprised to learn that [public health] is mainly a political movement with a specific ideology. This concept is recognized in one of the most popular textbooks of public health, Bernard Turnock’s Public Health: What It Is and How It Works (5th edition, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012, p. 22), which says, “In many respects, it is more reasonable to view public health as a movement than as a profession.”
Gerard Hastings of Stirling University writes in a medical journal that “lethal though tobacco is, the harm done to public health by our economic system is far greater.” Marketing, he claims, “undermines our mental as well as our physical well-being” and, when done by multinationals, presents “a major threat to public health.” (“Why Corporate Power Is a Public Health Priority,” BMJ, 2012)