Living Longer - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1932832

Living Longer

Donald Trump-appointed Florida U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Kimball Mizelle recently issued a nationwide injunction banning mask mandates for public modes of transportation. The Biden administration has appealed the judge’s decision.

One hopes that someday, sooner rather than later, COVID-19 will be behind us, but the issue of public health and the authority to make decisions for health benefits for us, collectively, will always be before us. It’s crucial to give wide berth to public health professionals (and to strengthen public health departments).

I would guess that most people, if they think about it, would attribute our increasing life expectancy to modern medicine as practiced in acute care settings and pharmacies — and they have contributed. Primarily, though, we are living longer because of advancements in public health.

Claire Ninde, a public health professional, instructs: “Over the last 200 years, U.S. life expectancy has more than doubled to almost 80 years (78.8 in 2015), with vast improvements in health and quality of life. However, while most people imagine medical advancements to be the reason for this increase, the largest gain in life expectancy occurred between 1880 and 1920 due to public health improvements such as control of infectious diseases, more abundant and safer foods, cleaner water, and other nonmedical social improvements.”

Improved sanitation, public water treatment, sewage management, food inspection and municipal garbage collection eliminated the causes of many deaths. Other social factors such as greater understanding of nutrition, better housing conditions, air quality improvements, child labor laws and higher literacy rates also greatly improved overall health and life expectancy.

The threat of more and more lethal pandemics exists, and the changing climate will make matters worse as its growing threat will disrupt physical, biological and ecological systems.

Mike Anthony


Anthony is a former Southampton Town Democratic Committee chair, and also a retired hospital administrator — Ed.