Horton is a doctor and the editor of The Lancet:
A more equal society is a safer, kinder and more prosperous society. Specific policies to meet the urgent needs of these groups can lay the foundations for economic recovery and build resilience to future crises. We must demand parental support to improve prospects for child development and policies to advance adolescent physical and mental health. We should have stronger assistance and legal protections for women and children at risk of domestic violence and abuse. And we need more interventionist disease prevention and health promotion campaigns across people’s lifetimes, prioritising cancer prevention, heart disease and severe lung disease – and recognising the role that poverty and insecurity play in determining ill health.
Working conditions must be improved, and frontline workers must receive a wage that respects and recognises the critical role they have played in protecting our communities from collapse.
We’ve just spend two centuries doing all of those things. The result, by Horton’s own estimation?
She points out that we are suffering from a widespread disillusionment about our bewildering predicament, and describes how people are feeling anxious and angry. She argues that alienation and exclusion are breeding mistrust, that communication between people and politicians is broken, and that despite the crisis we face we are nowhere near being able to answer a question about how we want the world to be.
How do we begin to answer that question? First, we must understand the true nature of the crisis that confronts us. Our nation suffers from a political disease of historic proportions. The bonds that once held communities together are fraying. The confidence we once felt that generations after our own would have greater opportunities has ebbed away. And the beliefs we once embraced about the inherent strength and resilience of our national institutions and welfare state have been exposed as mere illusions. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the reality of contemporary Britain: the country is defined by poverty, insecurity and inequality.
It seems unlikely that more of what we did to get here will cure the ailments of being here. But then medical educations – and The Lancet – do appear to be light on that logic part.