A Look Back: New York City’s Learning-by-Doing Response to Pandemics

With thoughts of the latest pandemic on so many of our minds, it can be useful to look to history for context and reassurance as we try to understand our current predicament. Often, it is easy to become lost in a vague picture of the developing world as the sole bearer of afflictive disease. However, a look to the past will indicate that just a few generations ago, many, if not all, of the world’s most developed cities also faced massive disease outbreaks that challenged their best abilities to contain and manage viral threats. More broadly, it is important to recognize that public health remains a transformative, ongoing work in progress for cities everywhere and at all stages of their development.