The "Snowzzies"–aka "Public Health Disservice Awards"—are out. What's this all about? Peste Magazine, which covers health journalism, advocacy, and the arts, created the Public Health Disservice Awards to highlight the worst offenders who botched public health messaging and contributed to spreading dangerous COVID-19 misinformation that led to the normalization of death, sickness, and disability. Jason Silverstein and Martha Lincoln explain in this editorial why Peste created these awards:
How did so many in the United States end up desensitized to mass death and disability, angrily opposed to almost all means of mitigating an occasionally fatal airborne virus, and willing to accept so little from the powerful? How did the wealthiest nation in the world — and, on paper, the nation seen as best prepared to meet a pandemic — fail, and continue failing, so epically? The Public Health Disservice Awards ("The Snowzzies") tries to answer these imponderables.
The Snowzzie awards process began with an advisory committee of renowned experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology, anthropology, health equity, economics, and journalism. They created the award categories. After a public nomination process, the committee reviewed the extensive list of nominations and selected winners from a very competitive field of bad actors. They then invited guests to write the announcements of these awards to recognize individuals and institutions who made public health worse in 2022.
Our awardees are the intellectual authors of a noxious form of pandemic-era groupthink; the Snowzzie awards recognize their outsized efforts to normalize a disaster and manufacture public consent. Occupying positions in academia, medicine, journalism, and government, they have worked to inculcate the belief that life is back to normal. If things seem otherwise, that is a "you" problem. Everyone else, we are told, has moved on.
There are SO many people and groups who could have won these awards, but here are the final choices. If you click on each link, you'll find a detailed description of exactly why they deserve to be called out for their destructive effects on public health during an ongoing pandemic.
- Achievement in Public Health Disservice by a Non-Public Health Professional: Emily Oster.
- Achievement in Being the Center of the Universe: David Leonhardt.
- Achievement in Creative License in Public Health Communication: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
- Dishonorable Mention for Public Health Disservice: Ron DeSantis.
- Achievement in Public Health Disservice by a Group or Organization: The Clown Car Award. This year, a tie between UCSF and Stanford.
- Achievement in Public Health Disservice by An Individual: Ron Klain.