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NOTEBOOK: Will the pandemic make the public care more about disease prevention?


I interviewed Lyndi Buckingham-Schutt, associate director of wellness and nutrition policy at the Harkin Institute, a while back for a story on the intersections of disability and hunger (bit.ly/35nLYAH). Toward the end of the interview we talked about whether she thought the pandemic would get people thinking more about chronic diseases, and especially diet-related chronic diseases, to focus on preventive care. Here’s what she said. 
“I would like to think it would. But people just have a hard time conceptualizing prevention over treatment. And I think there’s been a lot of stigma on people with chronic diseases during COVID-19 because those are people who are also at high risk of getting COVID-19. And so our society has said, ‘Oh you’re at highest risk so you can’t do these things or you can’t go to these places but the rest of us are OK.’ And we’ve allowed, I think, our society to say, ‘I’m going to be OK but that person who’s not taking care of themselves [isn’t],’ which is probably not necessarily always the case. We’ve allowed our society to kind of forget that. …
“The pessimistic side of me thinks people will care less. COVID has turned people very internal about, ‘How can I protect myself?’ But the optimistic side of me says I think people will start to think about prevention as a key thing not only in terms of our health, as it relates to chronic disease, but overall, we want to prevent things like COVID-19 from happening. So what are some other health practices or habits that we can implement so that we don’t see COVID-19 happen again, or we don’t see the spread happen so fast, or we can better protect ourselves? I think the public health community overall has done a pretty good job of putting that message out there.”


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