Bracing for the next public health emergency (because there will be one)

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Public health experts say another emergency, such as a pandemic, is inevitable — and not that far away. They stress right now is the best time to prevent the next one.

"We have short memories when it comes to some of this stuff," said Dr. Stephanie Zaza, President of the American College of Preventive Medicine. She told the KYW Newsradio In Depth podcast that acting now is going to be key.

"Right now, we're seeing people say, 'Oh, it doesn't seem that bad, I'm not going to worry about the vaccine.' People are already starting to move into that place of, 'We can get through this.'"

Zaza said there needs to be pressure on cities, states, and Washington to plan ahead.

"Funding is required for that, so keeping sustainable funding," she said. "The dangerous thing that sometimes happens is sort of surge funding and then it backs way off and then other things become priority."

She suggested staying up to date on what your local and state governments are doing to prepare. That means attending city or county council meetings, or even school board meetings.

"Understanding how your civic structure works helps you then understand when they come out and say everybody has to wear a mask if you're outdoors, and you're like 'Who are you to tell me that?' Now you have a relationship with them," Zaza said.

"I know at least here, all of our commissioners and city council members are on Facebook, so you can sort of get to know who they are and how they make decisions."

Zaza also said public health preparedness doesn't just happen at the governmental level. This pandemic showed us how important it is to stay healthy.

"The healthier you are, the more resilient you are. What we saw in this pandemic is that people with serious or even mild underlying chronic disease, including obesity and overweight, did worse. They had more severe disease and a higher death rate. And that was very much also entangled with race and occupational risk," she stressed.

"For an individual, it's sort of that personal responsibility for your own health and to take care of your family, and to make sure your family is as healthy as possible."