Dr. Wong on COVID-19 and Global Public Health | St. Lawrence University Global Studies

Dr. Wong on COVID-19 and Global Public Health

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the urgency for innovation in the field of public health is felt worldwide. With the expansion and interdisciplinary nature of St. Lawrence’s public health programs, faculty and students are uniquely positioned to wrestle with the complexity of systems informing the successes and failures of managing the current global health crisis.

As of late March, Madeleine Wong, Associate Professor of Global Studies and endowed Trustee Professor in Public Health in the Arts, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies, was doing academic research in Ghana where the borders had been closed and she was in self-imposed isolation. Her scheduled return to the United States in April had been cancelled, and she was uncertain when she would be able to return to campus as the United States had become the latest epicenter of the pandemic. 

Wong took a break from her research in Ghana to respond to questions regarding the public health implications resulting from the novel coronavirus outbreak, and she articulated the importance of St. Lawrence’s public health programming and what it means in our current context. 

Q: How do you define public health?

Global studies uses a critical “public” approach to address contemporary health challenges facing populations and communities across the world. Within the United States, we address issues ranging from the opioid crisis created by prescription drug practices and urban air pollution and disease to gun proliferation and violence, as well as refugees being made unhealthy by mass detention, and, most urgently, the devastating global impact of the novel coronavirus.

For us, public health is an interdisciplinary field that recognizes health as a “public good” that is undermined by powerful interests. Thus denaturalized, we draw on insights from disciplines in the humanities and social sciences—and health studies among others—to understand political, economic, and cultural aspects of health and illness. We consider how social relations such as those of class, sex and gender, racialization, and disability, as well as social and environmental inequalities, shape core public health issues with implications for prevention, protection, and health promotion. We emphasize the importance of quickly learning of threats and addressing root causes with public consensus built via advanced communications and media strategies to work toward effective interventions locally and globally.

For the full article, visit https://www.stlawu.edu/magazine/spring-2020/wake-call-covid-19.