Natalia Linos

Natalia Linos is a social epidemiologist, currently serving as the executive director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard and as a member of the Poor People’s Campaign COVID-19 Health Justice Advisory Committee. She began her career with the United Nations and led their work at the intersection of public health and climate change.

What should high school students know about your platform?

I’m running on a health platform, but I consider health to be much more than just the absence of illness. It’s about where we live, where we play, where we grow — health is our environment. So my platform is about healthy neighborhoods. It’s about a healthy planet, including action on climate change. And it’s about shared prosperity, including fighting economic inequality.

You joined the race later than some other candidates, specifically in response to the coronavirus pandemic, without previous political experience. Why did you feel it was so important for you to be in this race?

I’m an epidemiologist, a social epidemiologist, and I have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, writing and calling on the government to do more from a health equity perspective, and I was outraged at how disastrous the COVID-19 response was in this country, especially for communities of color. 

I’m both a newcomer to politics and entered very late, so it’s challenging: I can’t lie. And also campaigning during COVID-19 is challenging. But I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the momentum. I decided to run a week before the nomination papers were due, and I was able to collect 1,200 signatures in five days. And that was because I had an amazing group of volunteers that just came together within days. That speaks a lot to the fact that the public health community, the health community in general and also academics are frustrated, frustrated with what they’ve been seeing with the COVID-19 response, and they believe that we can’t go back to normal because normal was not working for most Americans, and they want some new ideas.

And just to clarify, as a social epidemiologist, I’ve been doing research and work on income inequality and poverty, on housing and segregation and racial justice.

Why is it important to elect scientists to Congress, even once the pandemic subsides?

The pandemic hopefully will subside within the next 18 months to two years or rather, we will have a vaccine or some sort of treatment.

But pandemics as a whole, and preparedness for pandemics, is something that we need to be paying a lot more attention to, especially because of climate change and changes in our environment. We’re seeing a lot more zoonotic types of diseases like Zika and other things.

It’s one thing to respond to COVID-19 — I will be doing that. But it’s also to prepare us so that we don’t have another disaster like this in the future. I think having scientists is also important for other issues that require data and scientific understanding, most importantly climate change, to fight back against those who are denying that.

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