Renewed Trust in Public Health Agencies Lies in a Return to Science, Not Special Interests
- December 11, 2023
Michael Chamberlain, RealClearHealth
Among the direst casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic is Americans’ trust in public health authorities. According to a Pew Research poll, prior to the pandemic more than three-quarters of adults rated “public health officials – such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” as doing an excellent or good job. Now just a little over half rate them so highly. Among some groups, it’s far lower. As new CDC Director Mandy Cohen has acknowledged, “Trust is easily broken and, as folks know, trust takes time to rebuild.”
Take the significant public health issue of youth tobacco use. CDC’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) is a key input for informing federal regulators’ tobacco-related policy agenda. The voluntary survey is administered to middle and high school students through their schools “to provide national data on long-term, intermediate, and short-term indicators key to the design, implementation, and evaluation of comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs.” Why then, did the 2023 survey ask kids if they are transgender? How does it further tobacco regulation to know kids’ sexual orientation, or if they’ve felt discriminated against because of their race?
If the public can’t rely on public health authorities to make decisions based on sound science for the most serious and high-profile issues, what confidence can it have in the countless other decisions and advice it renders every day? Americans need to be able to trust the actions and pronouncements of public health authorities. For that to happen, sound science can’t be substituted for the sake of advancing a special interest agenda.