Defining Moments: H1N1

health/disease concept

The Defining Moments series looks back at the biggest events of 2010 to see what we can learn from them here at P&P, to work better in our calling, in 2011 and beyond.

Where were you on August 10th 2010?

Do you remember when you heard the news?

¢‚Ǩ¬¶.Okay, no, I dont remember where I was either. And I dont think I heard the news at all. August 10 was the day that the World Health Organization officially declared an end to the H1N1 pandemic. You probably dont remember it, because it wasnt made much of. In fact, if you went by your memories alone, if youre like most of us here, you would probably remember a few outward signs – hand sanitizer and cautionary signs in restrooms – but not a lot of personal concern.

This relatively relaxed attitude persisted despite the statistics: 80 million Americans caught H1N1, 360,000 were hospitalized from it, and 16 thousand died. Sixty-one percent did not get vaccinated – and interestingly, higher-income survey respondents were less likely to get vaccinated against it.

Ironically, this may have been because of another healthcare issue: 72 percent of American parents had reservations about the vaccine. Vaccination fears were largely founded on a study that linked childhood shots to autism. The problem is, that study was later completely discredited. It was even withdrawn by the medical journal that had originally published it. And the doctor who authored the paper had his license taken away for misconduct. Yet the worries that it created kept people more afraid than a sickness that was declared a national emergency.

Heres what we learned from H1N1: Dont assume logical reactions to healthcare issues.

Were better informed about our health than at any time in the past. Were more capable of searching out information, better versed in medical terminology, and have at our disposal an unprecedented array of data. But sometimes, instinct and emotion still take over.

It can be incredibly difficult to tell a patient to calm down if theyre convinced theyre at deaths door, and more problematic, it can be even harder to convince a patient that their condition is worth worrying about when they dont want to worry.

As we work, we have to remember this. Were not dealing with robots or with lists of pros and cons: were dealing with people: emotional, illogical people, who are worried about their health, their bodies and their lives. We are those people.

So while we can create the most sensible online destinations, apps and widgets; while we can make our arguments with unsinkable logic – we cant forget that we also have to appeal to the tumultuous emotions that we all have about the health of our loved ones and ourselves.

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