The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

U.S. Public Health:
Flying Blind

Jan 17, 2022

The U.S. health care system is still literally flying blind, two years after the pandemic first started.

There is a total lack of reliable information. Health officials still can’t accurately track the virus. Testing is still not widely available. There is no one system to gather the information and analyze the information from the testing … when it is done. Health officials aren’t even able to tell what version of the virus is circulating because that work isn’t being done either. Instead, health officials have to depend upon the work done by scientists in other countries, like Israel, Great Britain, or South Africa—even though the situation in this country is very different and therefore the development of the disease is not at all the same.

This lack of even the most basic information is one important reason why so many of the statements and directives coming out of the CDC are so unreliable and misleading.

And it is one more indication of just how inadequate the public health care system in this country really is. Public health agencies are severely underfunded, and staffing levels have been cut over and over again, with 60,000 jobs fewer public health jobs than there were in 2008.

Since the pandemic hit, there has been no increase in spending in public health. On the contrary, things have only gotten worse, as public health agencies have actually lost 300 more top trained staff, often burnt out or retired under the pressures of the pandemic. And they are not being replaced.

In early January, six top scientists, who had served on the Biden transition team, publicly sounded the alarm, declaring that Covid is not going away, that there will be new variants and new pandemics, and that the U.S. still doesn’t have a way to deal with them. They called for an immediate build-up of the public health system. “The resources necessary to build and sustain an effective public health infrastructure will be substantial,” they wrote. These include a big increase in physical infrastructure and tens of thousands more highly trained staff, so that there are enough people to deal with ongoing health problems, along with emergencies when they come up. They also called for big increases of staffing at the community level to be able reach out to the public, as well as a big increase in the number of school nurses “to address the large unmet public health needs of children and adolescents.”

As these scientists pointed out, scientists can come up with great discoveries, like the new m-RNA vaccines and new anti-viral drugs. But without people working in public health to administer and coordinate everything at the level of the whole society, without society acting in a collective fashion, only a small minority benefit … leaving the door open to more disasters and untold death and suffering.

The scientists went public with these proposals because no politician or public official is proposing to permanently increase public health spending. All because health care is dominated by profit making big business. And for big business, public health care is just not profitable enough.