The confluence between democracy and governance, evident within the context of contemporary Western culture, is currently responsible for the pervasive participation of citizens in healthcare policy decisions today. As a rule of thumb, American presidents are customarily counseled appropriately to brace for the possible crises such as epidemics and pandemics during their respective terms in office. Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump were all confronted with various public health crises; prompting the implementation of suitable federal agendas to address the respective healthcare issues identified.
During President George W. Bush’s first term in office, he faced the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the accompanying severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease outbreak. By 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared HIV/AIDS an epidemic requiring prompt international response to stem its spread. Its steady rise was further confirmed in an annual report tabled by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2001 which estimated that 40 million people were already living with the disease (UNAIDS, 2001, p. 270). This rise in number was also associated with new challenges associated with the condition and social stigma. Consequently, President Bush signed the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to protect US citizens with HIV/AIDS from accompanying depredations (Recupero & Harms, 2019, p. 270).
The United States also faced a new public health challenge during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Senior non-cabinet advisors on healthcare matters such as Karl Rove (2001-2007) were quick to underscore the importance of well-timed and structured methodology to contain the spread of SARS. President Bush responded by signing an executive order approving involuntary quarantine for SARs patients and the formation of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza to plan future reactions (Bouey, 2020, p. 40). The enactment of these policies also sought to ensure the US was acutely prepared for a similar event in the future by stockpiling medical supplies while creating elaborate response structures.
President Barack Obama encountered Swine flu (H1N1) and the re-emergence of the Ebola Virus as leading public health during his first term as president of the United States (POTUS). President Obama aptly declared H1N1 a public health emergency 6 weeks before the first death was reported in the US (Athari, 2017, p. 375). This quick response was credited for the low infection rate registered in the US and further bolstered by President Obama’s decision to declare H1N1 a national emergency. The rationale behind this decision was to support the president’s public health agenda to drastically reduce the number of new H1N1 infections in the US and related deaths. The H1N1 pandemic was officially contained in 2010 after claiming a total of 12, 469 lives in the US alone (Ledford, 2016).
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President Obama also faced the Ebola outbreak, between 2014 and early 2016, in Western Africa and focused on protecting US citizens from this threat. He charged the Emergency Operations Center of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with conducting a fact-finding mission in affected West African countries to gain a better understanding of the disease and further enforced travel bans on countries with a high number of confirmed cases (Burki, 2015, p. 389). This policy guided the creation of suitable control practices in the US to prevent Ebola infections within the country and across continental America.
President Donald J. Trump arguably faced one of the most challenging public health issues yet after the speedy spate of the Corona disease (COVID-19) disease in 2020. This new menace prompted its inclusion as a major healthcare item by policy makers and its succeeding elevation to a high-profile status. Trump initially decried deficiencies in systems established by previous governments to respond to pandemics and associated them with an overall insufficiency in funding resources. By March, 2020 the initial plan was to conduct mass testing in the United States organized by the CDC (Couzin-Frankel, 2020, p. 50). The Trump administration then instituted a travel ban on travelers from China, before extending it to Europe, although the European strain of the virus had already spread across the region.
Out of the three responses presented above, President Trump’s reaction was least effective and would have required an in-depth evaluation of the current predicament. One of the main blunders committed by the Trump administration was the failure to plan and structure the initial response to the crisis. The president should have focused more on budgeting for the supply of single-use personal protection equipment (PPEs) to protect healthcare workers at the frontline fighting against COVID-19. Additionally, President Trump should have mandated “standards for occupational exposure” to protect healthcare workers while creating safety nets based on successful emergency response systems as a contingency measure.