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A Thankful and Healthy New Year for Public Health

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of the Tarrant County Physician.

by Catherine Colquitt, MD, AAHIVS
Medical Director and Local Health Authority
Kenton K. Murthy, DO, MD, MPH, AAHIVS
Assistant Medical Director and Deputy Local Health Authority

During the holiday season, many were reunited in person to celebrate with loved ones after almost three years of relative seclusion.

There was much to be grateful for this season. While COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations are rising in Texas and in Tarrant County, our present COVID rates pale in comparison to December 2020 or January 2021.1 And though influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections are strikingly and unseasonably high, and the perils of a tridemic (COVID-19, influenza, and RSV) are on our minds, many of us and our patients and neighbors are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have already had the bivalent mRNA vaccines (for protection from the Wuhan and Omicron COVID-19 strains) as well as the current seasonal influenza vaccine.

As we shift gears from the COVID-19 pandemic to COVID-19 endemic,
we hope that our next iteration of COVID-19 vaccines will roll out side
by side with next season’s influenza vaccine. However, if new versions of COVID-19 vaccines are required to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 between now and then, our scientists and vaccine manufacturers, our distribution networks, the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the CDC, and state and local partners will work together to respond to future challenges.

It seems fitting to consider what we have to be thankful for, and gratitude in healthcare is a very active field of study at present. A meta-review in Qualitative Health Research by Day et al reviewed recent works and referenced pioneering works on gratitude research dating to the early twentieth century and organized this vast body of work into six “meta- narratives: gratitude as social capital, gifts, care ethics, benefits of gratitude, gratitude and staff well-being, and gratitude as an indicator of quality of care.”2

Given the ubiquitous articles reporting on healthcare worker
burnout and the mental and physical consequences of COVID-19 on our workforce, Day et al suggested in their conclusion that more research is needed on “gratitude as a component of civility in care settings” and that further study might help researchers to understand the intersection of gratitude “with issues of esteem, community cohesion, and the languages of valorization that often accompany expressions of gratitude.”2

Individually, we might all take a moment to self-assess using a simple exercise such as the Gratitude Questionnaire – Six Item Form (GQ-6), or we might dig more deeply into the bibliography of “Gratitude in Health Care: A Meta-narrative Review” to study our own complicated relationship with gratitude more closely.2,3 Those in healthcare have been under great strain since COVID-19 first appeared on the scene, and perhaps a gratitude practice is just what the doctor ordered to help us to reboot and revive the sense of wonderment with which we began our careers.

1. Texas Department of State Health Services COVID -19 Dashboard.
2. Giskin Day, Glenn Robert, Anne Marie Rafferty. 2020 Gratitude in Health Care: A Meta-narrative Review. Qualitative Health Research. 2020 Dec; 30(14): 2303-2315
3. Gratitude Questionnaire – Six Item Form (GQ-6), taken from Nurturing Wellness by Dr. Kathy Anderson.

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