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Public Health Year in Review: The Biggest Headlines in 2022 

The spotlight remained squarely focused on public health in 2022 due to the development of significant new issues, such as the sweeping changes to women's reproductive rights and the emergence of a relatively unknown infectious disease, MPox, all superimposed on the COVID/RSV/Influenza tripledemic. While we have made great strides in responding to these issues, there is still much work to be done in 2023. 

This includes addressing the re-emergence of polio, the escalating opioid crisis, the persistence of chronic diseases from smoking and obesity, and building capacity for mental health. 

The following provides highlights in all those areas, revealing any progress made and areas for growth and improvement. 

Infectious Disease Updates from 2022 

Coronavirus pandemic: Now in its third year, we’ve seen a gradual return to normalcy—people gathering in both large and small venues unmasked, hugging and shaking hands. This progress has been made possible through preventive care measures, namely the deployment of vaccines and therapeutics. 

However, this return to normalcy has been threatened by the tripledemic, consisting of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza flu (flu), and COVID-19. There’s no scientific definition for this term; it simply refers to a collision of RSV, flu, and COVID-19 to the extent that it might overwhelm hospital emergency departments. 

Even though these three viruses are present right now, they aren’t each peaking simultaneously. Pediatric RSV and flu cases are now down; COVID-19 continues to increase in adults; and cases of adults with flu are declining in the elderly and somewhat stable among younger adults. 

This tripledemic has completely overwhelmed many pediatric and adult hospitals, disrupted attendance at school, daycare, and work, and left families feeling weary and anxious about how to keep their loved ones safe from repeated sickness, particularly as the colder months drive more people indoors and create ideal conditions for viruses to spread. 

Mpox: Dealing with one outbreak is difficult, but we also witnessed yet another one disrupt society called Mpox. On 23 July 2022, the WHO Director-General declared that the multi-country outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). 

Re-emergence of polio: Recently, the disease made headlines again when a case was detected in the United States in July 2022. An unvaccinated 20-year-old man was diagnosed with a type known as “vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV).” This is a strain related to the weakened live virus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV). 

Overturn of Roe v. Wade 

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to abortion a federal right in the United States. The decision dismantled 50 years of legal protection and paved the way for individual states to curtail or outright ban abortion rights. 

Because of trigger laws put in place before the ruling, abortion is now outlawed in many states automatically or through state action following the decision. In addition, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that certain other landmark rulings should be reconsidered, including established rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage. 

Federal Efforts to Beat Opioid Epidemic 

To address this epidemic, the White House launched New Actions and Funding to Address the Overdose Epidemic and Support Recovery on September 23, 2022. 

The $1.5 billion initiative funds all 50 states and territories to treat substance-use disorders and remove barriers to key tools like naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. 

The FDA will release new guidance to ease restrictions on naloxone. Currently, there are legal barriers limiting access to naloxone in some states. 

Marijuana Classification: The Stakes are “High” 

On October 6, 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned all people convicted previously of federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. He encouraged state governors to do the same. 

Skeptical about whether marijuana should continue to be categorized as a Schedule I drug, the President asked the secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review the classification of marijuana. The Biden administration has not yet decided whether it plans on removing marijuana from the drug schedule entirely (descheduling) or placing it on a less-restrictive tier (rescheduling). 

Chronic, Non-Communicable Diseases Persist 

Top public health threats don't just come from a virus, bacteria, or an illicit drug but from social ills such as poverty, health inequity, and misinformation. This is why some chronic illnesses, such as effects of obesity and smoking, are major public health issues that persisted in 2022 and are included in this review. 

Mental Health Needs Strains Capacity 

Demand for mental health treatment has continued to increase as many psychologists report no longer having the capacity to see new patients, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association. 

The 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey found that demand for anxiety and depression treatment remained high for the third consecutive year while demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders and substance use disorders has grown. Six in 10 practitioners reported that they no longer have openings for new patients, nearly half (46%) said they have been unable to meet the demand for treatment, and nearly three-quarters (72%) have longer waitlists than before the pandemic. On average, psychologists reported being contacted by more than 15 potential new patients seeking care a month. 

Nearly 8 in 10 psychologists (79%) said that they had seen an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders since the beginning of the pandemic, and 66% saw an increase in demand for treatment for depression. 

Summary 

This year's review revealed interesting activity in infectious diseases as we see a shift from focusing on a pandemic to a post-pandemic world. Also, Federal attention is turning toward improving substance abuse prevention by tackling our nation’s opioid addiction while Biden works to reclassify marijuana. 

There will be a continued effort to curb smoking and obesity. The mental health system is still struggling to meet the demand for services. So, as we close the books on 2022, we open a new chapter for 2023 chock full of challenges and opportunities for public health. 

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.[Text Wrapping Break] 

Sources: 

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/tripledemic-flu-rsv-and-covid-19 

https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2022/rsv-flu-and-covid-19-understanding-todays-tripledemic/ 

https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-statement-on-the-press-conference-following-IHR-emergency-committee-regarding-the-multi--country-outbreak-of-monkeypox--23-july-2022 

https://www.paho.org/en/monkeypox 

https://www.paho.org/en/stories/history-polio-eradication-re-emergence#:~:text=Recently%20the%20disease%20made%20headlines,oral%20polio%20vaccine%20(OPV). 

New Actions and Funding to Address the Overdose Epidemic and Support Recovery 

https://www.american.edu/sis/news/20220629-what-do-you-need-to-know-about-the-overturning-of-roe-v-wade.cfm 

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/11/mental-health-care-strains 

The spotlight remained squarely focused on public health in 2022 due to the development of significant new issues, such as the sweeping changes to women's reproductive rights and the emergence of a relatively unknown infectious disease, MPox, all superimposed on the COVID/RSV/Influenza tripledemic. While we have made great strides in responding to these issues, there is still much work to be done in 2023. 

This includes addressing the re-emergence of polio, the escalating opioid crisis, the persistence of chronic diseases from smoking and obesity, and building capacity for mental health. 

The following provides highlights in all those areas, revealing any progress made and areas for growth and improvement. 

Infectious Disease Updates from 2022 

Coronavirus pandemic: Now in its third year, we’ve seen a gradual return to normalcy—people gathering in both large and small venues unmasked, hugging and shaking hands. This progress has been made possible through preventive care measures, namely the deployment of vaccines and therapeutics. 

However, this return to normalcy has been threatened by the tripledemic, consisting of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza flu (flu), and COVID-19. There’s no scientific definition for this term; it simply refers to a collision of RSV, flu, and COVID-19 to the extent that it might overwhelm hospital emergency departments. 

Even though these three viruses are present right now, they aren’t each peaking simultaneously. Pediatric RSV and flu cases are now down; COVID-19 continues to increase in adults; and cases of adults with flu are declining in the elderly and somewhat stable among younger adults. 

This tripledemic has completely overwhelmed many pediatric and adult hospitals, disrupted attendance at school, daycare, and work, and left families feeling weary and anxious about how to keep their loved ones safe from repeated sickness, particularly as the colder months drive more people indoors and create ideal conditions for viruses to spread. 

Mpox: Dealing with one outbreak is difficult, but we also witnessed yet another one disrupt society called Mpox. On 23 July 2022, the WHO Director-General declared that the multi-country outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). 

Re-emergence of polio: Recently, the disease made headlines again when a case was detected in the United States in July 2022. An unvaccinated 20-year-old man was diagnosed with a type known as “vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV).” This is a strain related to the weakened live virus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV). 

Overturn of Roe v. Wade 

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to abortion a federal right in the United States. The decision dismantled 50 years of legal protection and paved the way for individual states to curtail or outright ban abortion rights. 

Because of trigger laws put in place before the ruling, abortion is now outlawed in many states automatically or through state action following the decision. In addition, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that certain other landmark rulings should be reconsidered, including established rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage. 

Federal Efforts to Beat Opioid Epidemic 

To address this epidemic, the White House launched New Actions and Funding to Address the Overdose Epidemic and Support Recovery on September 23, 2022. 

The $1.5 billion initiative funds all 50 states and territories to treat substance-use disorders and remove barriers to key tools like naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. 

The FDA will release new guidance to ease restrictions on naloxone. Currently, there are legal barriers limiting access to naloxone in some states. 

Marijuana Classification: The Stakes are “High” 

On October 6, 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned all people convicted previously of federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. He encouraged state governors to do the same. 

Skeptical about whether marijuana should continue to be categorized as a Schedule I drug, the President asked the secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review the classification of marijuana. The Biden administration has not yet decided whether it plans on removing marijuana from the drug schedule entirely (descheduling) or placing it on a less-restrictive tier (rescheduling). 

Chronic, Non-Communicable Diseases Persist 

Top public health threats don't just come from a virus, bacteria, or an illicit drug but from social ills such as poverty, health inequity, and misinformation. This is why some chronic illnesses, such as effects of obesity and smoking, are major public health issues that persisted in 2022 and are included in this review. 

Mental Health Needs Strains Capacity 

Demand for mental health treatment has continued to increase as many psychologists report no longer having the capacity to see new patients, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association. 

The 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey found that demand for anxiety and depression treatment remained high for the third consecutive year while demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders and substance use disorders has grown. Six in 10 practitioners reported that they no longer have openings for new patients, nearly half (46%) said they have been unable to meet the demand for treatment, and nearly three-quarters (72%) have longer waitlists than before the pandemic. On average, psychologists reported being contacted by more than 15 potential new patients seeking care a month. 

Nearly 8 in 10 psychologists (79%) said that they had seen an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders since the beginning of the pandemic, and 66% saw an increase in demand for treatment for depression. 

Summary 

This year's review revealed interesting activity in infectious diseases as we see a shift from focusing on a pandemic to a post-pandemic world. Also, Federal attention is turning toward improving substance abuse prevention by tackling our nation’s opioid addiction while Biden works to reclassify marijuana. 

There will be a continued effort to curb smoking and obesity. The mental health system is still struggling to meet the demand for services. So, as we close the books on 2022, we open a new chapter for 2023 chock full of challenges and opportunities for public health. 

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.[Text Wrapping Break] 

Sources: 

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/tripledemic-flu-rsv-and-covid-19 

https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2022/rsv-flu-and-covid-19-understanding-todays-tripledemic/ 

https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-statement-on-the-press-conference-following-IHR-emergency-committee-regarding-the-multi--country-outbreak-of-monkeypox--23-july-2022 

https://www.paho.org/en/monkeypox 

https://www.paho.org/en/stories/history-polio-eradication-re-emergence#:~:text=Recently%20the%20disease%20made%20headlines,oral%20polio%20vaccine%20(OPV). 

New Actions and Funding to Address the Overdose Epidemic and Support Recovery 

https://www.american.edu/sis/news/20220629-what-do-you-need-to-know-about-the-overturning-of-roe-v-wade.cfm 

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/11/mental-health-care-strains 


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