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Smiles are contagious too: An open letter to Public Health Madison & Dane County

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Mental health, social and emotional development and morale in Dane County are suffering!


Attn: Janel Heinrich, Director - Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC)

Ms. Heinrich and PHMDC,

In combating a highly contagious disease over the past two years, we’ve taken unprecedented disease mitigation steps such as social distancing, closing schools, businesses and buildings, and requiring face coverings for children and adults while indoors. While well intended, these COVID mitigation steps and mandates have also contributed toward substantial social isolation, muted social interactions, and have limited the sharing of positive energy and emotions.

Focusing upon facial covering, this contagious disease mitigation effort has unfortunately muted another contagious, yet incredibly positive, expression by hiding a person’s smile. While reading The Righteous Mind, the specific excerpt referenced below compelled me to pen this open letter.

Sharing a smile with a stranger is a small expression of emotion, yet carries an incredibly powerful positive energy and emotions. We’ve been deprived of this positive energy associated with a smile, and many other positives associated with human interaction, over the past 18 months. We now need to recognize that our county’s children and residents are suffering in newfound ways. For example:

  • Mental health is suffering within Dane County and nationwide
    • Such as discussed here
    • Drug overdoses are up roughly 30% year over year nationwide
  • Local restaurant business owners have commented that clientele are generally meaner and less courteous
  • Early childhood and grade school teachers are increasingly recognizing developmental delays in Dane County - this can not be ignored
    • Such as that discussed here

Moving forward, we must recognize and then work to reverse these trends!

In this open letter, we pose the following questions:

  • What is PHMDC doing to recognize the negative development and mental health issues described here?
  • What can PHMDC do to address these issues?
  • After recognition, what is the PHMDC plan to repair Dane County societal mental health and work with preschools and schools in the county to tackle childrens’ developmental delays?

We implore Public Health Madison & Dane County leadership to recognize and begin addressing the negative child development and mental health outcomes associated with COVID mitigation mandates and social isolation. The local community depends upon you and we look forward to our public health officials stepping up here.


Concerned Dane County Parents & Dr. John Goeser - MS x 2, PhD


“In humans the mirror neuron system is found in brain regions that correspond directly to those studied in macaques. But in humans the mirror neurons have a much stronger connection to emotion-related areas of the brain—first to the insular cortex, and from there to the amygdala and other limbic areas. People feel each other’s pain and joy to a much greater degree than do any other primates. Just seeing someone else smile activates some of the same neurons as when you smile. The other person is effectively smiling in your brain, which makes you happy and likely to smile, which in turn passes the smile into someone else’s brain.”

Excerpt From

The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt

This material may be protected by copyright.-


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