The medicalization of freedom
How anti-science movements use the language of personal liberty and how we can address it. Looking back, the initial spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 illustrates that clinicians, epidemiologists and behavioral scientists around the world greatly underestimated the scope and intensity of resistance to mitigation measures that would follow. Many in the medical community have remained wedded to the view that direct observation of the soaring volume of death and morbidity associated with coronavirus infections will convert most people into adherents of mitigation measures. Hence, most public health communications on mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccination stubbornly focus on and attempt to leverage efficacy data, patient testimonies, and the clout of clinicians, politicians, athletes and social media influencers, to increase public uptake.
Freedoms are most intimately and persistently felt as, and equated with, human rights. However, without strategic integration, freedom becomes an individualistic paradigm focused on personal gain, disengaged from collectivist public health efforts. The embrace of mitigation should be promoted as an expression of freedom and support of human rights, a communal paradigm focused on maintaining personal health and dignity.