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We Must Save Ourselves from the Public Health Professionals

We Must Save Ourselves from the Public Health Professionals


Like other aspects of medicine, public health is about dealing with life and death. In the international sphere, this involves big numbers. If, as a group, a few million dollars is allocated here, it may save thousands of lives. Actual people living rather than dying, or grieving. If it’s allocated there, it may even promote death – diverting other resources from a more useful approach or causing direct harm. 

Dealing with such issues affects people’s egos. Humans are prone to think themselves important if they seem to have power over the lives of others. With international public health staff this is reinforced by people they meet, and the media glorifying their work. The public hears little of the high, often tax-free salaries or the travels and 5-star hotels that boost these egos still further, but instead are fed pictures of (usually brown) children lining up to be saved by people in (usually blue) vests with nice logos. It all feels good.

The result, inevitably, is an international public health workforce that has a very high opinion of itself. Possessing values that it considers superior to those of others, it feels justified in imposing its beliefs and values on the populations who are the target of its work. As their role seems to them more important than bringing up kids in some random village or working at an airport check-in counter, they can feel virtuous when seeking to impose their superior opinions on others. The WHO’s insistence that countries globally embrace certain Western cultural values supporting abortion on request until time of delivery are a powerful example, irrespective of what one considers its ‘rightness.’ More so as the WHO also claims to support ‘decolonization.’

Things get tricky when the ultimate source of funding has its own commercial or geopolitical priorities. As an example, expenditure of the World Health Organization (WHO) is now over 75% specified by the funder, including those who stand to gain financially from such work. Large organizations that helped the WHO run its Covid-19 response, such as Gavi (vaccines) and CEPI (vaccines for pandemics), were jointly set up by private and corporate interests who are now represented on their boards and directing them.

The interface between these self-interested funding sources and the populations upon whom seek to impose their will is where the self-righteousness culture of the public health workforce becomes so important. They need enforcers whose culture renders them willing to impose harm and restrictions upon others. Apologists and sanitizers who are in a position of trust.

A Captured but Willing Workforce

If you are going to sell a product, you can advertise it and hope potential buyers are interested. This carries a commercial risk. If a product can be mandated – essentially force the market to buy it – then this risk is eliminated. If you can then remove any liability for harm done, you are simply printing money with no risk at all. This is such a ridiculous and indecent approach that it would never fly in a normal commercial context. You would need a workforce capable, en-masse, of putting aside the moral codes that prevent such practices. A shield between the people being managed and the commercial or political interests standing to gain.

Historically, public health has often provided such a shield – a way of sanitizing vested interests that would otherwise appear repulsive to the public. In the United States, it implemented racist and eugenic policies to sterilize and send into decline ethnic groups it considered inferior, or individuals considered to have lesser mental capacity (or socially inferior). 

The Johns Hopkins University psychology laboratory was founded by proponents of just such an approach. The fascists in Italy and Germany were able to extend this to active killing first of the physically ‘inferior,’ then whole ethnic groups claimed by governments and health professions to be threats to the purity of the majority. Examples such as the Tuskegee study show that this attitude did not stop with World War Two.

Most of the doctors and nurses implementing eugenics and other fascist policies will have convinced themselves that they were acting for the greater good, rather than demons. Medical schools told them they were superior, patients and the public reinforced this, and they convinced each other. Having the power to directly save or not save lives does that, while carting trash and repairing sewers (equally important to public health) does not. It enables people to tell others what to do for a perceived greater good (even sterilization or worse) and to then stand together as a profession to defend it. They will do this for those who direct them, as health professionals are also trained to follow guidelines and superiors.

Accepting Humility

The hardest thing in public health is accepting that none of the above is actually for the public’s health. It is about unleashed human ego, a large part of greed, and a trained and frequently reinforced willingness to bow to authority. Hierarchies feel good when you are near the top. 

In contrast, health depends on mental and social well-being, and all the multiplicity of influences from within and without that determine whether each person experiences, and how they deal with, disease. It requires individuals to be empowered to make their own choices, irrespective of human rights, because mental and social health, and a large part of physical health, are dependent on the social capital this agency enables. Public health can advise but once it steps over the line to coerce or force, it ceases to be an overall positive influence.

To provide sensible public health, you must therefore be comfortable allowing others to do what you consider to be against their physical interests or some ‘greater good.’ When you are convinced that you have superior intellect, this can feel wrong. It is harder again when deferring to the public means breaking ranks with, and losing standing with, peers who consider themselves superior and more virtuous.

To do this, one has to accept that intellect has no standing when assessing human worth, and that each human has some intrinsic characteristic that puts them above all considerations regarding greater societal good. This is the basis of fully informed consent – a very difficult concept when considered deeply. It has its basis in the Nuremberg Code and post-1945 medical ethics and human rights, and is a concept with which many in our health professions and their institutions disagree.

Facing Reality

We are now entering one of those more extreme periods, where the hierarchy really becomes clear. Those pulling the public health strings have gained enormous power and profit from Covid-19 and are focused on getting more. Their chosen enforcers did their job during Covid-19, turning a virus outbreak that kills near an average age of 80 years and at a rate globally perhaps slightly higher than influenza into a vehicle to drive poverty and inequality. They continue to do this, pushing ‘boosters’ associated with rising rates of the infection they are aimed against, and with unusual evidence of harm, ignoring prior understanding of immunology and basic common sense.

Now public health is moving further in response to the same masters, the Covid profiteers, promoting fear of future outbreaks. With near-total obeisance, they are now supporting a reordering of society and health sovereignty through amending the WHO IHR regulations and negotiating a pandemic treaty to build a permanent health technocracy to sustain concentration of wealth and power through recurrent pharmaceutical profit. 

This reordering of our democracies into Pharma technocracies, with the public health bureaucracy being aligned to enforce it, will make the right to travel, work, go to school, or visit sick relatives dependent on compliance to health dictates passed down from a massively wealthy corporate aristocracy. Those health dictates will be enforced by people whose training was funded and careers supported by those who directly profit. The modelers who will produce the numbers needed to scare will be similarly funded, while a sponsored media will continue to promote this fear unquestioningly. The institutions above this, the WHO and the big public-private partnerships, take funding and direction from the same sources. The proposed pandemic regulations and treaty are just cementing all in place, repeating the massively harmful restrictions on human rights applied during Covid whilst ensuring that there is less room for dissent.

We need legislators, and the public, to reclaim public health ethics and to return to credible concepts of health and well-being – as the WHO once did – “physical, mental and social.” This is what was intended when previous generations fought to overthrow dictators, striving for equality and for the rights of individuals over those who would control them. History tells us that public health professions tend to follow self-interest, taking the side of those who would be dictators. If our democracies, freedom, and health are to survive, we must accept reality and address this as a basic issue of individual freedom and good governance for which we are all responsible. There is too much at stake to leave this to self-interested corporatists and the notorious enforcers they control.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • David Bell

    David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

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