The past few years has been a whirlwind of world-changing news - and COVID-19 was certainly one of the headlines that affected every one of us, whether directly, through a loved one, or by affecting how we manage our ongoing health concerns.
A bright spot in the darkness was the amazing collaboration that fast-tracked the development of COVID-19 vaccines. While all of us have been affected by the events of the past few years, many of us have learned more about ourselves and how we respond to change and struggle. In this post, I'll highlight a few lessons that I've been reflecting on.
don't take your health for granted
Do you ever wonder how COVID-19 disbelievers cling to their beliefs despite the numbers in front of them? Optimism bias is when we don't think something bad will happen to us - like contracting COVID-19, even when we see the hospitalization numbers climbing in the news. However, when that event hits close to home, like losing a loved one, optimism bias falters.
When COVID-19 was just getting started, many likened the virus to "the flu". It quickly became clear that this was something far more sinister, as healthy young adults were rapidly deteriorating. This brings me to lesson 1: never take your health for granted.
We've heard this story before at health event fundraising dinners or walks for cancer - a loved one never thought about cancer or heart disease or stroke until they or their spouse was affected. With COVID-19 claiming the lives of millions of Americans, and more around the world, there are many more people now who know just how fast their health can change.
In 2020, the CDC reported that 4 in 10 US adults delayed or avoided medical care due to concerns related to COVID-19. Dental care was the most commonly delayed type of care - though preventative dentistry, in addition to keeping up with our medications, health screens, and vaccination schedule, is a key part of taking care of ourselves.
Maintaining your oral health can help improve your overall health, as gum disease and poor oral hygiene contribute to chronic inflammation throughout your body, increasing your risk of things like heart disease.
the importance of a team effort
From our memories of lockdown - living alone or with all of your family, empty streets and eerie photos of empty tourist destinations - the empty streets were a sign of love for our community and a team effort towards quelling the raging wave that is the COVID-19 virus.
While signs reading "healthcare heroes" and "not all heroes wear capes" do little physically to alleviate the burnout, infection rates, and bed shortages plaguing healthcare practitioners, the positivity of communities coming together, masked and 6-feet apart, were bright spots in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From neighbors helping one another, to families working, schooling, and living at home, to the broader scale team efforts of cross-industry collaboration, team effort was a critical piece of the puzzle in getting us to where currently are in the pandemic.
vigilance against misinformation
Prior to COVID-19, much of the misinformation that spread like wildfire on the internet was pointed towards politics. While much of the response to COVID-19, particularly at the state-level, had political slants, the scientific misinformation about COVID-19 was and is a much deadlier threat. In fact, medical care providers and scientists hawked misinformation to the masses, even when very little was known about the virus.
Everyone is susceptible to misinformation - whether it's a small headline on your Facebook feed about a random topic, or something more conniving, many of us don't have the resources or training to fact-check everything we read. We trust those in the media to fact-check for us, but with the internet, anyone can create content to disseminate.
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