Friday, March 5, 2021

Pharmacy Deserts: Inequality or Lifestyle Choice

 Several years ago, I was privileged to attend the 65th National FCCLA Convention (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America). As a state advisor that year, my state officer and I enjoyed a week of hard work and fun times in downtown Chicago. For many of the 5,000 or so participants, it was an exciting to see a part of the US that differed tremendously from their own home towns. Quite similar to the Country Mouse/ City Mouse fable, it was a learning experience even for those with some travel under their belts. 

All of us have adopted different habits and hobbies during the pandemic and one of mine is reading headlines.  Notice I said 'headlines' and not 'news'.  There is something telling about the author in the headline.  Is it to shock the reader into opening the link or is it just general information that might be reported by a dozen different news outlets? The headlines that cause me the most concern are the ones that claim inequality without any understanding the community they are describing. 

Certainly, our time in Chicago that year, and the years we have gone to Washington, San Diego, Orlando and Nashville have been eye opening for these young people.  But, what about all those city dwellers who have only experienced country life from the balcony of a resort hotel or ski lodge.  Just like the City Mouse and Country Mouse, journalists and bloggers who sit in their 12th story apartments have little direct knowledge of what the situation really is. 

Today, the headline that caught my eye was proclaiming great concern over "pharmacy deserts".  It made so little sense to me, I had to wonder if it was a typo.  But, alas, the term was correct at least as far as it goes.  

'Desert' has become the new descriptor for anything that is more than a few blocks away or not available on demand. When you live in a place where distance is not measured in blocks, you have a different meaning for the word - convenience.  The time has come for writers and those in communication fields to evaluate news on more than just convenience and immediacy. 

During that week in Chicago, it was a thrill to be able to have four restaurants, a shoe store, grocery store and deli and an emergency clinic all within a short jaunt.  But the vast majority of the US population does not live in such a world and to claim we are disadvantaged, disparaged or treated unequally is not a failure of the system but a failure of some who think everyone must live the same.

The reality is that, most of us choose to live in a situation where we have to wait for things. We learned long ago that if we needed and wanted it immediately, there were ways to get it and if we couldn't get it, it was probably because it wasn't available.

What those who judge do not understand, is that rural communities might not be the first on the list, but they will make quicker use of the vaccine when it arrives and have fewer snafus along the way. The state of West Virginia has already proven that with one of the highest rates of vaccination in the country. 

It has been a testament to the American spirit that while our national government continues to be divided to the extreme, people have creatively addressed the challenges of this pandemic to make it work in spite of leadership.  While some worried about naming a community that didn't have a pharmacy, nurses and doctors figured out how to transport vaccines and get them to patients in a timely fashion. All without Facebook posts and 6 o'clock news coverage. 

The people who do will make this work even if the people who lead are in the way. 


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