Triple Epidemic: Media Coverage and Advocacy Groups Are Lacking


What can the media do to better cover the "tripledemic," and where are all the advocacy groups for these infectious diseases?

Concerning the triple epidemic or “tripledemic” of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the media covers the number of cases. Still, more expansive topics should be covered, and advocacy groups are needed to assist patients dealing with COVID-19, long COVID, and the aftermath.

In this second of 3 installments of the exclusive interview Infection Control Today® (ICT®) conducted with Maureen Hennessey, PhD, CPCC, CPHQ, SVP, director of value transformation of Precision Value, and Cynthia Miller, MD, MPH, vice president and medical director of the Access Experience Team of Precision Value, give answers to these topics.

The first installment is here.

ICT® asked Hennessey and Miller if there are topics that the media is not discussing concerning this triple epidemic, but the media should be, and what those topics are.

Miller answered, “Going back to pandemic preparedness, when I think about the history of public health in the early 1900s, before we had antibiotics, infectious disease killed most people. You died of infections. Then we got vaccines, better sanitation, and we had antibiotics. So infectious disease was less of an issue for our longevity, and we moved more into chronic disease. We focused on heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, which more [individuals] die from these days. [However,] we're now seeing a shift…. As we've seen this transition from infectious disease to chronic disease, and now we have more infections that we're managing as a global community, we're going to see a shift and what we need to do as public health professionals. That's what the media needs to start covering: how we must change how we think about our health care system.”

Hennessey expanded on what is needed to assist these patients. "Anywhere from 3 to 10 million individuals have COVID-19, and growing every day. [Meanwhile,] there are some estimates that 10 to 30% of people develop long COVID or at least have symptoms that endure for at least 6 months in time. Given those kinds of concerns, we need to think about how we help [individuals] navigate those conditions and those symptoms. The American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation has done great work advocating for comprehensive plans to address the effects of long COVID....But when you think about it, we have the top two diseases that kill [individuals], cancer and heart disease, [which] have some major advocacy organizations that are multi-stakeholders: The American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society. We need organizations like that [for long COVID]. They're starting to emerge from a grassroots perspective, but we need more of that broad swath of individuals and multi-sector organizations, all collaborating and aligning on how we address COVID-19.”

Hennessey then described what those advocacy organizations for patients dealing with COVID-19 and long COVID could look like. "If we're looking at how do we prevent COVID-19? How do we promote vaccine acceptance and vaccine confidence? How do we encourage better therapies? How do we support individuals who are living with long COVID? What kind of advocacy do we still need for immunocompromised individuals and their families? Hopefully, what we will learn from those experiences as people organize more around that is that we will have lessons learned and greater infrastructure that can then be used to address some of the other issues…from infection prevention and infection control perspectives as well for other conditions.”

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