COVID-19: A Catalyst for Engendering Public Trust in Health Care and Building Back a Better Health Profession Response


COVID-19: A Catalyst for Engendering Public Trust in Health Care and Building Back a Better Health Profession Response  (COVID-19 Challenges and Consequences: December 2019-January 2021)

Authored by Dr. E. Dianne Rekow, Professor Emerita, Fellow, and former Executive Dean of King’s College London, and Dr. Timothy L. Ricks, Assistant Surgeon General and Chief Dental Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, this first paper in the series analyzes the events from December 2019 through January 2021, with the next update scheduled to be released later this month.

Executive Summary

Trust is critical for informing and influencing the public’s response to infectious diseases, pandemics, and disasters. Health care professionals rank exceptionally high in measures of public trust of all professionals, putting these professionals in the position to strongly influence information the public seeks and values, especially at times of great risk or loss. This trust, in the case of COVID-19, influences perception and understanding of the severity and transmissibility of the disease and willingness to adopt interventions. The COVID-19 pandemic has created situations that have the potential to deeply undermine that trust. Alternatively, those same situations can catalyze responses by health professionals to maintain and engender an even greater level of trust and thereby contribute to a coordinated and timely response for the current and coming phases of the pandemic.  

A summary capture of the rapid, complex, unfolding landscape from December 2019 through January 2021 provides a glimpse of the initial challenges and consequences of the early evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The summary references the multitude of sources informing the public, health professions, businesses and government, global and national agencies, governmental executive orders, professional organizations, media reports, and peer-reviewed publications. Looking back, the action taken, the conflicting messages, the changes in understanding illuminated by science, and the geographic variations are not a surprise in the context of a novel virus pandemic. However, what we have witnessed and experienced to date warrants deliberate review and collective action to engender public trust in health care and to build back a better health profession response for now and future such events.  

The intention is to follow this summary with similar periodic updates, capturing and summarizing the successes, challenges, and consequences of the continuing evolution of the pandemic. Focus will continue to be on the impact on public trust and possibilities for building better health profession responses. The Santa Fe Group is eager and poised to learn and collaborate with other organizations to enrich and engender public trust in health care professionals, thereby building back a better and stronger health care response to improve the health of the nation and accelerate recovery from this and future pandemics by: 

  • Health care professionals, medical and oral health, together and separately, being outspoken, providing and advocating for clear, culturally sensitive, science-based, consistent health information and messaging to inform both policy and public-facing information.
  • Fully integrating oral health care professionals and other health care professionals into planning and response to future emergencies and pandemics, by having them contribute to the full scope of their training.
  • Oral health care professionals embracing the value of and implementing specific actions to define and drive policies for bi-directionally integrated oral health and primary care.

Download your copy of the position paper: Click Here