Historian Engagement in Public Health

Esyllt Jones

Award: 2022 Project Grant

During the COVID-19 pandemic, disease and health historians have frequently been called upon by media, public organizations, and institutions (including government agencies) to explain how past disease outbreaks can inform present-day and future responses, and to enhance public understanding. They have provided insight into public health measures (including social distancing, or self-isolation), mental health, vaccine acceptance and anti-vaccination movements, social inequality and disease, scientific racism, colonialism in public health, and how pandemics ‘end.’ Historians have also engaged in policy debates and offered support to communities and public health in ‘real time.’ Esyllt’s project looks at the growing interest in greater historian input into health policy and provides models that might help to realise that goal. It assesses how the history/policy dialogue has succeeded or fallen short, and ways it could be improved in the future.