Doc Talk #198 – The Curate’s Egg of COVID-19

COVID-19 has unquestionably been a disaster. The pandemic has caused untold suffering and misery, both as a direct consquence of infections, but also through secondary consequences including the impact on the economy and employment.

People have delayed seeking treatment, or as one op-ed in the New York Times asked “Where Have All the Heart Attacks Gone?”, there have been rising rates of domestic violence (a topic we discussed in some detail in a previous show) and a negative impact on mental health.

However, there have been some consequences from COVID-19 which have been beneficial. In this show Dr Dan and Jamieson discuss the “Curate’s Egg” of COVID-19 (whilst still accepting that the harms of COVID-19 are likely to massively outweigh the unintended benefits).

Air pollution which is estimated to kill 7 million people a year has significantly improved in some parts of the world (probably a good thing, especially as COVID-19 transmission has been linked to air pollution particles).

Anecdotally, there has been a resurgence of interest in physical activity. We predict a bumper year for running. (It is ironic that many previously declared a ‘pandemic of physical inactivity’ to be one of the greatest threats to modern health).

Although anxiety about COVID-19 has led to some patients delaying seeking treatment, we mused about iatrogenesis, via a much-cited study that demonstrated during US National Cardiology Conferences when many senior cardiologists were away from their hospitals, researchers paradoxically noted reduced death rates, to so-called “low value” surgical procedures, Choosing Wisely and clinical appropriateness.

Our message to listeners? Don’t wait to get medical attention if you are sick. Hospitals and clinics have put measures in place to keep you safe.

If you have had the opportunity to develop healthier habits (such as increased physical activity) during the pandemic, see if you can make them stick!

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