You, our readers, have many things in common, including a dedication to helping people prevent complications and heal as well as an education based on science. It would be inconceivable to make a diagnosis without knowing anatomy and physiology or to develop a treatment plan without understanding the evidence behind it. We know that science cannot be ignored and, sadly, during the past 12 months, the world received a humbling lesson about the power of nature and that ignoring science is, indeed, done at one’s own peril.
Although the current pandemic was predicted decades ago,1 the world was unprepared to deal with it and the response was (at best) uncoordinated. Initial testing debacles and millions of tax-payer dollars spent on faulty personal protective equipment (PPE) and “glorified garbage bag gowns” were some of the sad “highlights” of the initial response to the pandemic.2 Now, and previously unimaginable amounts of suffering and numbers of deaths later, PPE shortages remain,3 as do opinions that coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) is not a serious threat or is just a “Plandemic,” putting undue stress on health care workers already close to burn-out.4
Similarly, almost 200 years ago, Claude Bernard (1813–1878) suggested that social hemostasis supports bodily hemostatis,5 and research in the 20th century has shown that, indeed, the biological “wear-and-tear” from chronic exposure to social and environmental stressors or their effect on epigenetic processes increases the risk of disease.5 Yet, efforts to address these disparities have been limited and, as a result, minority groups continue to be disproportionally affected by COVID-19 with higher rates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.6,7
Last year also provided dozens of vivid reminders about the power of nature itself when science is largely ignored – adding insult to injury with weather-related catastrophes, heartbreak, illness, and deaths. This was seen in widespread flooding in Africa and Asia, record heatwaves, and droughts and wildfires in South America, Russia, Australia, North America, the Caribbean and Mexico, and North Central Europe.8 In the North Atlantic more than 96 named tropical storms formed, with a record of 12 landfalls in the United States.8 While opinions about the decades of scientific research on the effects of human activity on the climate are changing, according to a Yale University study, 32% of persons in the United States still do not believe that global warming is caused mostly by human activities and 47% believe it will not harm them personally.9
But there is hope. As always, there is hope because science and data can guide efforts to bend disastrous curves and provide solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. Buoyed by billions of dollars in worldwide government subsidies and contracts, dozens of well-known and not-so-well-known pharmaceutical companies have started developing vaccines. By the end of November 2020, 87 vaccines were in preclinical studies; 57 vaccines were in phase 1, 2, or 3 clinical studies; and 6 were approved for early or limited use in the United Arabic Emirates, China, and Russia.10
We are going to have to rely on science to tell us how long immunity following illness or vaccination lasts, and act accordingly. We are going to have to rely on the data to continue to adapt and guide our practice(s) to help those whose need for wound, ostomy, or continence care has not changed. We will need to continue studying our outcomes and sharing how the pandemic is affecting our patients and the care we provide. As always, science is a thoughtful, deliberate, and transparent process as well as a joint effort. Every piece of a puzzle is important. Together we can obliterate opinion and help prevent small and large catastrophes – from lower limb amputations to pandemics. May this New Year bring all of us the science we desperately need as well as the hope and healing all health care professionals deserve.
The opinions and statements expressed herein are specific to the respective author and not necessarily those of Wound Management & Prevention or HMP Global. This article was not subject to the Wound Management & Prevention peer-review process.