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How Crises Help Healthcare
Emily Pajak '21 Associate Editor
April 11, 2020
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There is no denying that in light of a global economic recession, the collapse of healthcare systems, and the untimely deaths of thousands of people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to stay optimistic. However, there is something to be said about the perseverance that has emerged within society in response to the outbreak, and how important it is to keep this perseverance thriving long after the pandemic has passed. Looking towards a brighter future on the horizon, the end of the pandemic will mark the beginning of a new day in healthcare, technology, environmental recovery, and personal growth; the signs of which are already emerging. 

COVID-19 will revolutionize the medical landscape because every medical advancement present today has been developed in response to a health issue in the past. One of the most notorious parallels to our current situation is World War 1 and the Influenza pandemic of 1918. Each of these historical conflicts required national and even universal collaboration to overcome the influx of medical dilemmas that arose during this time.  Some of the greatest medical advancements arose out of the national suffering pervading the nation.. In response to infection from injury, doctors revolutionized the medical environment, creating ambulances, antiseptic, and anesthesia, three staples of modern medicine. 

After the war, female doctor Mary Merritt Crawford from the American Hospital noted that “A war benefits medicine more than it benefits anybody else. It’s terrible, of course, but it does.” In a similar way, frontline doctors and medical researchers are using this pandemic as an opportunity to develop better strategies for coping with illness in the future

The COVID-19 outbreak is bringing to light previously neglected opportunities of all kinds; we are seeing the emergence of a contemporary service mindset with the use of remote working, social networking, telehealth and telemedicine, predictive analytics, cross-industry collaboration, and a joint workforce between countries.

With social distancing in place, we have been forced to explore different avenues for staying connected, learning, and running an essential business. While for many of us this might just mean watching more Netflix, it also means that the older generations are forced to get more practice with modern resources. Schools turned to online education. Doctors turned to telemedicine and developed better intervention delivery methods when they cannot be readily available. Each of these efforts serve to improve interoperability between generations, organizations, and countries.

In addition to improvements in medicine and technology, the shutdown of public transportation and limit of human interference with the environment because of the outbreak has produced surprising benefits for the earth. Air pollution has diminished to all-time lows, animals are reinhabiting their natural habitats, and the overall climate is improving. 

NASA released satellite images showing a decrease in nitrogen dioxide emissions over China since the beginning of the year. A similar effect was present over Italy, another country immensely impacted by COVID-19. The canals of Venice are clear, revealing the fish that now swim underneath their still surfaces. Statistical comparisons are revealing surprising chemical changes in the atmosphere, opening the door to various hypotheses about the effects that these changes might have on global health.

One such scientist from Stanford University, Marshall Burke, used new statistics of reduced nitrogen dioxide (a cancer and respiratory issue causing greenhouse gas) presence in the atmosphere over China to run calculations on how these changes affect the health of the population. His calculations tentatively point toward the idea that because of the reduction in air pollution, the Covid-19 outbreak may actually save more lives than it kills in the long run.

Perhaps the most prevalent benefit of the COVID-19 outbreak is time. With schools and offices closed, social obligations canceled, and orders to stay home, we have found ourselves faced with an opportunity to take advantage of. From picking up a new hobby to studying for AP exams to volunteering for organizations against the pandemic, the virus has given us the perfect opportunity to build our mindsets in response to uncertainty. 
Of course, to categorize the COVID-19 outbreak as a blessing is far from accurate. Any benefits discussed here are no match for the short- and long-term social and economic disruptions that arise from a global pandemic. However, it is important to acknowledge that every conflict comes opportunities to grow and develop into a stronger society than we were before. Therefore, if we are successful, things won’t turn back to normal. Hopefully, we can continue to work and function better as a society, using the things we have learned from this crisis long after it has passed; we have been dealt a tragic card, but also a meaningful opportunity. If we play it right and attack our misfortune with a balance of urgency and optimism, we can come back even stronger than before.