In a story from The Washington Post, Francis S. Collins, former director of the National Institutes of Health, said that more funding should be made available for local health departments across the country, to better help the public fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
As new variants appear and testing and vaccinations try to keep up, Collins’ suggestion has the potential to help thousands of Americans who live in rural areas and can’t access treatments and testing as easily as their metro/urban counterparts.
From the story: “In a recent Washington Post Live interview, Collins warned about the dangers of overlooking the lessons of this pandemic. On the research side, he said, scientists are working toward new vaccines and antivirals that will leave Americans less vulnerable to another pathogen that may come our way.
But that half of the equation needs to be matched by improvements on the delivery side, Collins said, by increasing staffing and funding for local health departments, many of which have been running on a shoestring. Officials in some local health departments still transfer data by fax.
There “needs to be a real reset button for the whole system to try to figure out how to be better prepared,” Collins said.”
“During the past two years, there has been little appetite for organizational overhauls to keep up with the evolving enemy — or prepare for future pandemics — according to Jay A. Winsten, director of strategic media initiatives at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The United States has largely relied on legacy public health systems. One example: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s external advisory board, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, typically makes recommendations for routine vaccines that affect small portions of the population — often children — rather than responding to the minute-by-minute shifts of a worldwide outbreak.
The “processes are designed for a very different moment,” said Ashish K. Jha, a health policy researcher and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “They are not functioning well in a pandemic.”
As we continue into 2022, public health departments being able to reach out to those who have little information on vaccines and public health could be the next step in stopping the pandemic for good.
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