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Masha Gessen on Measles Epidemic: It’s due to a lack of trust in the US healthcare system, which does not trust its own patients. Profit-driven healthcare systems cannot promote public health because public health is not profitable.

2019-03-04

Here’s a quote from the Masha Gessen article, in this week’s New Yorker. (subscription…)   Normally Masha writes about politics, particularly related to Russia– due to Masha’s experience in Russia, there is a lot more clarity on what autocracy and disinformation do to politics.  However, this article on the measles epidemic explains that decisions that individuals make, decisions that have an effect on other people, are political.  So when you do something that has an effect on other people, that is a basic political act, the basis of all politics.

At any rate, this article on measles is particularly perceptive because it analyzes the measles epidemic and the lack of vaccinations that is causing it based on how Americans view their healthcare system.  The system is based on a lack of trust, partly because it is profit-driven; every patient generates a profit, and the more patients, the better.  Protocols for patient management are based on a complete lack of trust in the patient’s word for anything.

Thus, it is unsurprising when people don’t trust what they are told about measles vaccinations; there is a huge space for misinformation and disinformation.  Even Russian trolls on the internet are spreading anti-vaccine propaganda.  (How does the healthcare system in Russia handle the need for universal vaccination?)

So the healthcare system in the US is poorly suited to delivering public health or dealing with epidemiological problems like the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases:

The solution to under-vaccination lies not in getting the right kind of information and messaging to the “vaccine-hesitant” but in changing the politics of health care. Political agreement is unlikely among partners who do not trust each other, and near impossible when one side is explicitly profiting from the other. The American health-care system is ill-suited to protect public health, because a profit-driven industry cannot serve as the guardian of public good.

In the congressional hearing that everyone watched on Wednesday, Cohen implored Republican legislators to stop lying for the President as he said he had for years. They ignored him. Whether driven by perceived profit—financial or electoral—or willful belief, they would hold the line that they had adopted, facts and the public good be damned. In both hearings, one could observe the utter disintegration of politics.

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