To illustrate the gulf between the nation’s costly health care and its underfunded public health, Alfred Sommer, former dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, often tells a story:When people wake up after triple bypass surgery at the famous hospital across the street in Baltimore, they typically thank their doctors for the lifesaving miracles they performed — and sometimes even make donations to the institution.“Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Thank God I don’t have smallpox.’ Or, ‘Thank God my water is potable,’ ” Sommer said.That in a nutshell, says Sommer, is the conundrum facing public health as it tackles the coronavirus crisis. Its largely preventive mission, aimed at protecting the entire community, has been consistently overlooked in a country that puts a premium — and spends more money per capita than any other — on treating individual sick people. Its victories are soon taken for granted. And these days, as the vaccine debate demonstrates, its science is increasingly challenged.“We have an illness-care system not a health-care system,” said Betty Bekemeier, director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “The amount of money spent on keeping


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