American individualism continues to prove incommensurate to the public health challenge of COVID-19. Where the previous US Administration silenced public health science, neglected rising inequalities, and undermined global solidarity in the early pandemic response, the Biden Administration has sought to take action to respond to the ongoing pandemic. However, the Administration's overwhelming focus on individual responsibility over population-level policy stands in sharp contrast to fundamental tenets of public health that emphasize “what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy”. When this misalignment of individual responsibility and public health initially became clear with the removal of mask guidance for vaccinated individuals in May 2021, we decried the CDC Director's public admonition: “Your health is in your hands.” We argued that such statements – coupled with the label of “the pandemic of the unvaccinated” – represent a moral failing of US policy because they “undermine the fundamental notion that all people are equal in dignity and rights” and implicitly shift blame to individuals for systemic failures.
Cecília Tomori, Dabney P. Evans, Aziza Ahmed, Aparna Nair & Benjamin Mason Meier,
Where is the “Public” in American Public Health? Moving from individual responsibility to collective action
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