For several weeks, we have witnessed a major public health crisis in this country and around the world. This is something most people have never lived through before, but it sheds light on the unique field of public health. According to the American Public Health Association, “public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work, and play.” When I was a student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, we affectionately said we were saving lives millions at a time. This is how public health is distinct from medicine—rather than treating individual patients, public health practitioners seek to solve communal health problems.
As EDI celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are reflecting on the contributions of members of the AAPI community in addressing public health problems. An emerging public health problem is loneliness, defined as feeling lonely more than once a week. One of the leading voices addressing this public health concern is Dr. Vivek Murthy, former United States Surgeon General and a member of the AAPI community. In his work, Dr. Murthy suggests loneliness is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. While these health outcomes seem intrinsically personal, loneliness can have an adverse effect in group settings such as the workplace.
An article recently published by CNBC, Why Loneliness Lowers Your Performance at Work, highlights the relationship between loneliness and work. The article suggests people who were lonelier were not motivated to work as hard which led to lower performance. In addition, lonely team members seemed less approachable to their colleagues.
As we seek to build a more inclusive work environment, being mindful of others and respectfully welcoming all individuals to be a part of our work is important. Not only can it open the door for a lonely team member to feel safe engaging with others, but it can lead to increased productivity as a team and it reminds individuals of the value everyone brings to our teams.
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