The pandemic illustrates one of the challenges I face as an epidemiologist in communicating to the public (and media). I've been thinking about this for years:

As an epidemiologist, what I've got is not what you (a member of the public) usually want.

Let me explain...

Epidemiologists seek to understand patterns of health and disease in *groups* of people. We're also interested in what sorts of actions applied to groups could improve the their health.

What individuals often want is: "What should *I* do to protect *my* health?

I wish we could get individuals more interested in asking real epidemiologic questions rather than just personal health ones.

Instead of, "Will wearing a mask on my walk protect me from getting infected with the virus?" let's ask, "Should we ask the mayor to issue an ordinance requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces?"

That second question is the one that epidemiologic knowledge is most equipped to inform. And further, if more people were interested in taking not just personal but also public health actions like these, our communities could see greater benefit.

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