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Professional Development

The Ongoing COVID Response and Next Pandemic

In this recorded plenary presentation at the 2021 Health Datapalooza and National Health Policy Conference, panelists consider the impact of data collection on addressing the current pandemic and ways to leverage data to prepare for the next pandemic.

AcademyHealth CEO Lisa Simpson and panelists John Brownstein, Ph.D., Shereef Elnahal, M.D., M.B.A., Brian Caveney, M.D., J.D., M.P.H, and Kara Odom Walker, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.H.S. share their perspectives working in health systems, hospitals, labs, and state public health roles during COVID-19. Panelists highlight the ways the U.S. was not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, including the lack of data infrastructure and capacity, but note the ways, the pandemic also brought about faster, more widespread global data sharing.

Panelists agreed that focusing on equity and addressing health disparities is essential to responding to COVID-19 and preparing for the next pandemic. The pandemic revealed the challenge of missing data to account for disparities in marginalized communities. Panelists also discuss the value of building trust in communities to encourage public health efforts like masking, social distancing, testing, and vaccination, as well as investing in Black and brown communities.

Key takeaways include:

  1. Collecting data on COVID-19 is essential but infrastructure and skilled human resources are also needed to fully leverage collected data.
  2. We must acknowledge the widening health disparities that COVID-19 has further revealed; social issues must be addressed in addition to data and public health concerns.
  3. Information and data must reach policymakers to enable change. There must be a connection between public health and policy decisions.