There’s been no shortage of public health news headlines recently. First, it was vaping and the dangerous health issues that young users were developing. Here in Michigan, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been top of mind for health officials for several weeks now, particularly since four residents have died from the disease. Within the last week, discussions over immunizations came to the forefront following an outbreak of chickenpox at a St. Clair County high school. (See letters from Dr. Annette Mercatante and the St. Clair County Medical Society on these pages in reference to that particular incident.)
The response to each of these instances has been met with a mix of opinions.
Last month Governor Gretchen Whitmer banned all flavored nicotine vaping products. Supporters of the move said it was time to stop manufacturers from deliberately getting teens hooked on cigarette alternatives with candy- and fruit-like flavors. Adult users who believe vapor products are a healthier option than traditional tobacco decried the decision.
The state’s announcement to spray and kill mosquitoes from the air in an attempt to slow the spread of EEE was seen as an overreaction by some residents and organizations. It appears the response to “opt out” of aerial applications was so large that the state was forced to create a new system just to handle the volume of submissions.
Just as health officials rely on studies and statistics to make their decisions, concerned citizens should consult sound science too when forming opinions. Similarly, sharing those opinions should be done responsibly as well. Yes, it’s convenient and commonplace to hop on a preferred social media platform, search for the message that sounds best and share away. Add in a few extra exclamation points and the alarmist tone gets amped up.
The reality is that nothing is 100 percent safe but science offers us tools to prevent bad situations from getting even worse.
We trust that public health officials, both at the state and local levels, will make prudent decisions that accurately weigh the impact on all parties. We also encourage citizens to shape their opinions based on facts and seek out ways to share them constructively.