American public health organizations have been in place since the 1870s, but they barely register in everyday life. COVID-19 has changed this. This pandemic demonstrates that public health approaches save lives.
Consider the use of social distancing and face masks in reducing new infections. Researchers from the University of Washington have noted that near-universal mask-wearing could prevent 30,000 deaths in the U.S. this fall. Public health approaches work.
Why, then, are we not applying public health approaches more broadly when they have been used to solve other past crises? When automobile deaths became unbearable, we mandated seat belts, air bags, and other measures. The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required warnings on cigarette packages on the health hazards of smoking. These measures have