Population and Public Health

Accelerating Health Citizenship

Health citizenship during a pandemic


In this episode of the Accelerate Health Podcast, host Kerry Amato, executive director of health innovation with HIMSS, speaks with health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn about her new book Health Citizenship: How a Virus Opened Hearts and Minds. Jane shares what it was like to write a book during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what inspired her to apply these concepts to the current healthcare struggle.

The pandemic forced us all to change our daily lives in pursuit of health goals and thrust the pursuit of public health goals to the forefront of everyone’s minds, truly making us all health citizens. Jane and Kerry discuss how the virus forced rapid digitization of daily activities, including health-related activities, and how individuals and organizations became primarily digital almost overnight. Reflected in the rapid growth in telehealth, the enterprise of healthcare has been deeply impacted by this transformation. But everyone didn’t have the same ability to participate in this transformation, and the pandemic highlighted cracks in our social fabric and exacerbated existing societal inequities. Those with the means to quickly adapt and transform were able to thrive in this new environment, while many may find themselves left behind.

Jane expands on the concept of health citizenship by reminding us that health and the other activities we pursue as citizens are deeply intertwined, reminding us that economic circumstances and other social determinants have major impacts on health outcomes for individuals. Our health is directly tied to the society we create as citizens governing ourselves. Finally, Jane discusses the four pillars of health citizenship: access to healthcare for everyone, the ability to control your own data, trust in how systems will use your data, and love, driving a new social contract for health and wellbeing.

The intersection of the pandemic and the U.S. election highlighted how the choices we make together as citizens can have profound effects on our health. Beginning to think like health citizens may be the best path forward as we put the pandemic behind us.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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