The COVID-19 Pandemic as an Opportunity to Ensure a More Successful Future for Science and Public Health | Public Health | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Health Policy
February 9, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic as an Opportunity to Ensure a More Successful Future for Science and Public Health

Author Affiliations
  • 1Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA. 2021;325(6):525-526. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.23479

With the advent of the 21st century, science and technology were expected to be formidable forces that would hopefully improve population health and well-being.1 Furthermore, these forces would drive a rapidly changing and interconnected world, with communities and nations worldwide sharing common rewards (eg, economic development, health, and welfare) and facing common risks (eg, pandemics, chronic noncommunicable diseases, environmental damage, nuclear weapons, climate change). In this context, effective governance and communications were to be cornerstones for delivering the promise of science and technology for enhancing public health.

Yet the response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the US, one of the world’s science and technological powerhouses, has not realized these hopes.2 Furthermore, the pandemic has exposed critical weaknesses in the institutional systems specifically intended to protect and harness science and technology to promote personal and public health. The pandemic is thus a clarion call for a thoughtful examination of ways to bolster and modernize systems that support and guide science, technology, and public health. History suggests that major crises, such as wars, natural disasters, and pandemics can serve as a tipping point for proactive collective action. For example, reflection and lessons in the aftermath of World War II led to the creation of progressive institutions for that time, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Health Services in the UK. The current moment presents an opportunity to think boldly and to imagine a better world beyond the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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