Acting Locally: Dr. Bradly Bundrant
BALLINGER - There is no question that our many of our institutions are failing to deliver as promised. The FDA and CDC have failed to keep us safe and well informed during the recent pandemic, and they were even complicit in preventing the dissemination of accurate and useful information.
Perhaps the most naked example of this was when spokespersons for these organizations said that the public should not wear surgical masks, and lay persons might be more likely to catch and spread COVID if they wore a mask because they might wear it improperly. In this case the message seemed pretty clear: the masses are too stupid to do a thing as simple as wearing a surgical mask.
Of course surgical masks help to prevent the spread of germs by catching some of the germ-laden droplets that come out of a person’s nose or mouth, trapping them so they can’t go on to infect others. They are called surgical masks because they are used universally during surgical procedures for this very reason! Obviously, there are costs to mask wearing, and there are only particular times when the benefits outweigh the costs. The CDC is now acting contrary to the evidence by continuing to insist on the wearing of masks on airplanes and in schools always and by everyone age 2 years or older. (CDC website, accessed April 16, 2022)
In his book Uncontrolled Spread, Scott Gottlieb outlines many of the ways that the FDA and the CDC in particular impeded the development and implementation of testing for COVID, putting the United States behind South Korea and much of the rest of the developed world in this facet of the public health response. He documents many other failures of government as well. The most recent great example of colossal failure is the failure of our Federal Reserve to do one of the only two things it is supposed to do: keep prices stable. This has huge and long-lasting consequences in all realms of our public and private life. Access and delivery of health care are threatened, but also the rising cost of food makes it harder to make healthy choices in the grocery store, working longer hours to make ends meet can cut into family time and time for exercise. Financial stress, like the other stresses of the pandemic, leads inevitably to more drug abuse, family violence and parental neglect. These are facts that are indisputable on a population level.
Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When we plan we are weighing what present actions we should take in order to have the type of future we desire. However, in order to determine which problem(s) we should be aiming to solve, we must look at the past. Perhaps it should be no surprise that life expectancy in our nation declined from 2019 to 2020, it did so in all of the developed world, but that it went down 1.87 years in the US compared to an average of 0.57 years in the rest of the high-income countries in the world – that’s shocking!
Even more shocking are estimates for 2021 indicating that our life-expectancy will show a further decrease of 0.39 years compared to an average increase of 0.28 years in these other counties. The year 2020 was the deadliest year in our history, and experts believed that the vaccine would make things better in 2021. However, data shows 2021 to be even worse; more people died of COVID in 2021 (64,000 more) and 16 thousand more souls succumbed to other causes, compared with 2020.
Deaths in 2021 due to overdose came to 105,000, compared to 92 thousand in 2020 and 71 thousand in 2019. Life expectancy of a child born in the United States reached a peak of 78.9 years in 2014, and it has been declining since that time. More alarmingly, this change is due to increasing deaths in people 18 to 54 years old. This is the cohort of people who should be in the most productive time of their life, raising families and contributing to society. Instead, increasingly, they are dying of chronic liver disease as well as suicide and the consequences of substance abuse – accidents, overdose and murder.
While we cannot create our own biological testing or limit the supply of money, we can help each other and prepare for whatever the future brings. This Thursday evening, April 21 at 7pm, the Health and Wellness Coalition for Runnels County (HAWC) will have a meeting of the general membership and the interested public as we seek to enhance our ability to address some of the issues that we face locally. Because communications are critical and often inadequate or unavailable during disasters, Bobbie Collom will address this issue as it relates to first responders in Runnels County and beyond. Because the faith community is a vital part of community (often the most essential and most vital part), Brian Massey will let us know how the faith community of the Big Country is being knit together through the ministry known as Houses for Healing. Because having an adequate work force is a limiting factor in providing healthcare in our County, Sean Leamon and Jeff Butts – superintendents of Winters and Ballinger school districts, respectively – will address what their schools are doing to help train and inspire future healthcare workers.
These high-school programs equip their students to provide direct patient care as nursing assistants, and these are indeed much needed in facilities around the County. In addition, the skills of direct patient care also can provide a step or actually two steps forward for anyone contemplating a career in medicine. One step forward is the familiarity with the work, learning how to be with people who are ill or injured, make sure the necessary supplies are put in the right places, change sheets and put on a pillow case the hospital way. I did this type of work in an Emergency Room in the year before I applied to medical school, and that year of experience has continued to influence me to this day.
Yet another step taken in completing such a training program is that it provides a source of income which can be relied upon when other sources may not be reliable. I often think of St. Paul’s tent making as being an integral part of what made him an effective evangelist. Because he had a visible means of support that was sufficient for his life style, he was able to carry on his mission without relying on donations from the communities he visited. (Acts 18:3, 2Cor 11:7) Having a skill that is in demand everywhere, such as tent-making or direct patient care, allows one to pick up or restart a long-term project such as advanced schooling (or evangelizing), after some unexpected temporary event blows a person’s life off course.
I should also say, if it wasn’t clear from my anti-establishment rant at the top, HAWC is not allied with any agenda of any government agency, is not interested in supporting any political party and has no other hidden motives. We do, however, seek to work with anyone who is willing to help us in our mission.
Our Mission is collaboration: Focusing the talent, knowledge, energy, experience and benevolence of the people of Runnels County, augmenting these with available resources from within and outside of our County, in order to:
Assist all who seek help
Protect the vulnerable
Recognize and address the most important health and safety issues for all of Runnels County, both now and in the future.
The meeting will be available on Zoom or you may attend at 7pm on April 21, 2022 at the conference room of Ballinger Home Health, 818 Hutchins Ave in Ballinger. Visit us on Facebook or on the web at www.hawc4rc.org. You may also call and leave a message at (325) 315-0723 or firstname.lastname@example.org. HAWC is a 501c3 non-profit corporation, PO Box 518, Ballinger TX 76821.
Bradly Bundrant, MD, MPH, is the President of the Health and Wellness Coalition for Runnels County