A year in words
One year ago, if someone were to tell you even just a handful of the events that would take place in 2020, it would have been very hard to believe. But between constant natural disasters on both coasts (and basically every other part of the country), one of the most bizarre elections in American history, massive civil rights demonstrations worldwide, international travel halted – and yes, the pandemic – we don’t have the time to process one piece of news before the next thing happens. There’s really no way to adequately wrap up the year, but here are 15 words and phrases that perfectly define 2020.
What else could we have started this list with? Since the novel coronavirus first started making the rounds in China back in December, it has dictated almost every aspect of our lives. Technically, the last pandemic that hit Australia was the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. And while it was certainly serious – claiming the lives of 191 people in Australia, according to the Department of Health – it didn’t affect our lives the way COVID-19 has. To find a pandemic of this magnitude, you have to go back more than a century, to the 1918 flu pandemic which also involved large-scale closures and mask-wearing.
The concept of public health has been around much longer than 2020, but for a lot of people, this year was the first time they really had to think in terms of how their own behaviours can impact other people’s health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation defines ‘public health’ as ‘the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.’ And according to Dr Amelia Burke-Garcia, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the role of public health to the forefront – perhaps in a way that we have not experienced before. “The country is responding to the pandemic with mitigation efforts, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and contact tracing, efforts to develop an effective vaccine, and by providing mental and emotional health support,” she tells Reader’s Digest. Burke-Garcia is also the project director for How Right Now, an initiative supported by the CDC Foundation which aims to address mental health, coping, and resilience during COVID-19 – all important components of public health. “Today, there is a critical role for the field of public health to play,” she explains. “To stop the spread of COVID-19 and move toward greater health equity, everyone can play a role. We must work together to ensure resources are readily available to maintain and manage physical and mental health.”