79: Public Health’s Future

Dr. Judy Monroe, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, shares details of a new series of discussions considering the future of public health; Felecia Barrow, an ASTHO Disability and Preparedness Specialist working in Alabama, tells how National...

Dr. Judy Monroe, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, shares details of a new series of discussions considering the future of public health; Felecia Barrow, an ASTHO Disability and Preparedness Specialist working in Alabama, tells how National Guard members trained to work with the disability community helped a young woman and her family get vaccinated against COVID-19; and the non-profit Resolve to Save Lives organization debuts a media campaign sharing stories of young people suffering from “long COVID.”

CDC Foundation: Lights, Camera, Action Summit Series

ASTHO Blog Article: Embedded – One Year Review of Disability and Preparedness Specialists Project

Webpage: Resolve to Save Lives Launches First-of-its-kind “Voices of Long COVID” Media Campaign Throughout the United States

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, December 7th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.  

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 


As the year draws to a close, leaders are beginning to think about the future and a new approach to public health practice. Much of that reflection is driven by record amounts of funding poured into the COVID-19 pandemic response.  

ASTHO is one of several public health organizations partnered with the CDC Foundation to encourage the discussion through a series of webinars.  

Dr. Judy Monroe is president and CEO of the foundation. She talks about the Lights, Camera, Action Summit series in today's morning conversation.  

The series addresses four topics. It seems you could have gone on and on and on with this—there's so many things to talk about.  

How did you narrow it down to these four?  


These four are really fundamental topics for advancing public health and they they've shown up time and again in the thought leadership pieces and in the policy recommendations, you know, throughout the pandemic. These various issues have just come up over and over again, related to how we need to strengthen our public health system and ensure that we're all better protected for future emergencies, but also for all the other health-related issues—chronic disease, and other infectious diseases, environmental health that we face every day. 

So, our four topics are: achieving a diverse and effective, robust workforce—that's fundamental to everything that we do; creating interoperable and modern data and technology infrastructure, which is really the tool that we need; and then, effectively financing governmental public health functions and strengthening public health, law, and governance; and then, lastly, catalyzing cross-sectoral partnerships, both with businesses as well as at the community level.  


What are you hoping the people who attend the summit series get from it? What do you want them to take away? 


Now, well, I would say action. You know, we've named the series Lights, Camera, Action: The Future of Public Health Summit series, and we were very purposeful in how we named this. 

The lights being the guiding lights for research, from recommendations like the Public Health 3.0 I mentioned, and the Bipartisan Policy Center's recommendations; we see those as lights, and we want everyone to know about these reports. But also, the lights are the exemplars in the field—we want to make sure that we're lifting up, and people see hard examples that they can follow to take action.  

The camera represents the view that public health has been—you know, through the lens of the pandemic, we've been looking at public health—there's been a loss of trust. We want to emphasize the need to create trust and really write a new script for public health, a very positive movement. So, quite frankly, that's—at the end of the day, we'd love to see a movement being built with this series of summits as a springboard to that movement that we need. We also need to be doing everything we do through the equity lens.  

And then the action, you know, is where it's at. And the action includes our state, tribal, local, territorial public health officials, and what they can do with these issues that really have been illuminated by the lights and captured through the camera. That's the way we're thinking about it. 


On the subject of a movement—people attend the series, and then it's over.  

What do you do after that to make sure the things you discuss, the ideas that you share, actually turn into something across the country—become part of a plan or an action program?  


No, that's a great question. And we're being very deliberate in our thinking and our own actions in making sure that this doesn't end with just the summits.  

We created this as a series of summits purposefully for part of that reason, to keep this moving and to build that momentum; and then, there may be future summits depending on what comes out of this. There will definitely be support, for the actions of these topics are too big to tackle in one setting. For sure, it's going to take awhile to really make a difference. So, we need to keep that momentum up and the support for that.  

So, we're looking at, you know, ideally being able to have, rally, philanthropic and private support that will come in to help—maybe do challenge grants—to help some of the actions on the ground and keep this really alive going forward.  


The first meeting was yesterday. Three more are planned during the first quarter of the new year.  

You can get more information about the remaining events using the link in the show notes.  


Last week, we met Felecia Barrow, an ASTHO disability and preparedness specialist working to make sure people living with disabilities are included in the pandemic response. Among her projects: training members of the Alabama National Guard how to work with the disability community at mass vaccination clinics held earlier this year.  


Some of the tools that we provided the guard members included a communication card so that they would be able to effectively communicate with persons who were deaf and/or hard of hearing.  

We also provided plain language COVID-19 vaccine storyboards that would provide them a tool to explain the process of vaccination from start to finish for individuals who had cognitive or intellectual disabilities.  

And we also provided an accessibility checklist, and that was to ensure that the sites were accessible physically, sensory, from a sensory standpoint, cognitively, and technologically.  


The training was Barrow's idea. And for many people, like one clinic visitor, it made a big difference.  


The young lady was a wheelchair user—she was the caregiver for her brother, who was blind and deaf, and her husband was helping both of them—and they were able to get transportation to the clinic. It was raining, and the young lady did not want to get off that paratransit vehicle because she feared that, "If they let me off this bus, this bus is going to leave and we're all going to be out here in the rain."  

The guard member noticed this paratransit vehicle; she and her fellow troops, fellow members, came out to that vehicle and boarded at that bus, that paratransit vehicle, and they performed every action needed in order to get everyone on that bus vaccinated and made sure they were safe. And, as soon as she finished, they were able to just leave, and that paratransit vehicle was able to take them home safely. But they were vaccinated.  

And I heard later from the young lady that, "People with disabilities in this area are often forgotten. People don't think about us. But the way that they treated us at that clinic—" There were no words to express how appreciative they were. 


Barrow is one of 20 people working full-time in similar positions in state and territorial health agencies.  


Finally this morning, the non-profit organization Resolve to Save Lives has launched a campaign to encourage young people to get their COVID-19 shots. It features the stories of three unvaccinated 20-somethings who got the virus and continue to suffer its lingering effects.  

Dr. Tom Frieden heads the organization. He tells us more about the campaign tomorrow.  


That'll do it for today's report.  


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Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.  

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day. 

Felecia Barrow

Steps Program Coordinator

Judy Monroe MD

President and CEO, CDC Foundation