Learning from a Crisis Mentality

I have had the privilege over the past 6 months to work with a cohort of health professionals who are challenged to deal with some of the complex and evolving issues facing healthcare. And as the Covid-19 virus spreads on a local and global scale, I continue to be in awe of the commitment of our health care providers, working within a system that is complex when things are going well, let alone when a crisis such as this arises.

As the pandemic evolves around us, an interesting question was raised this week in one of our conversations. What would happen if we applied a crisis mentality to some of the ongoing challenges we are facing in healthcare? If we were to take that further, what if we applied that same mentality to other community and global crises we are facing? Think things like the opioid crisis, global warming…the list could go on.

It has been fascinating to watch our community, our country, and global communities mobilize to attack this current crisis. Massive shifts in behaviours, shifts in deeply ingrained patterns as individuals, families, business and communities adapt to the directed and self-imposed restrictions as we all work to help delay the spike in Covid-19 cases that could overwhelm our healthcare system. While not inevitable, the risk is very real, and it is heartwarming to see how each of us is responding.

Additional by-products of this global shift in behaviour have begun to emerge. It was fascinating to read this week of dramatic reductions in pollution and air quality have occurred in countries such as China and Italy, where sever restrictions have been imposed to stem the spread of this infection. While these changes have had and will continue to have economic impacts on a global scale, we begin to see some of the positive side-effects, which speak to something much bigger than what we are seeing occur around us.

What would happen if we borrowed some of the urgency that we used in crises, and applied to these deep-rooted challenges we are facing as a society? What would happen if we put aside our political and partisan views to really focus on the challenges we face in our communities? What if our leaders (or we replaced our leaders with…) took a non-partisan approach, breaking down the barriers that are preventing us from having meaningful dialogue? What if we brought together groups, teams, communities, organizations, etc. together like we do when a crisis such as Covid-19 arises, putting aside the petty differences that often prevent us moving issues forward?

There are many more ways we could ask these questions. One thing that is clear is that the ways we have used to fix things in the past are no longer valid. Things are changing too quickly around us and will continue to do so. I recently saw a quote from a scholar suggesting that this current crisis is a “once in a 100-year type event.” This may have been true looking backwards, however, as we look forward, we must accept that things are changing so quickly, that those old rules (and views) no longer apply. And if we continue to look backwards, to how we have always done things, the higher the risk that things will continue to deteriorate.

The pollution reductions that are a by-product of the lockdowns in China and Italy are a great example of the behavioural change that needs to happen if we are going to make a dent in things like climate change. We have demonstrated that it can be done through the Covid-19 pandemic. Are we prepared to permanently adapt behaviours as we try and tackle deep-rooted and ongoing crises that we are facing as a society? What would that look like?

Important questions as we move forward.