The Next Phase of the Public Health Response to COVID-19

The Next Phase of the Public Health Response to COVID-19: Goals and Strategies

April 17, 2020

CUNY SPH recently hosted a virtual Grand Rounds featuring David Nabarro, WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19. A recording of the event is available below, along with the Q&A from the session.

This Grand Rounds also featured the following speakers:

  • CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy Dean Ayman El-Mohandes
  • New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot
  • Distinguished Professor and Executive Director of the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health Denis Nash
  • Distinguished Lecturer and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives Scott Ratzan

Recording of event

Session Q&A

Distinguished Lecturer and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives Scott Ratzan answers questions raised during this Virtual Grand Rounds.

This is an issue that communication scholars have addressed for decades.  As this is a particular challenge in today’s world, public health professionals and others concerned with the public good apply a number of ethical principles.  Freedom of speech and the press are cherished rights granted in the Bill of Rights.  Nonetheless, we must be guided by data, accurate, information, facts, evidence and science in addressing COVID-19.

The other thing to remember is that you, as the individual who is receiving and processing information, must constantly challenge the truth of what you see, read and hear. Ask yourself who stands to gain if you believe this message. Do you know the source? Are the things they say are true backed up by references you can check? What rhetorical devices are they using? Now more than ever it is up to each of us to be more thoughtful and analytical about the barrage of words and images to which we are exposed.

As the Dean has written and Dr. Nabarro articulated in his presentation, this is a lifelong goal in and out of the classroom and in our daily lives.

This podcast has some information that may be useful: How the coronavirus works inside your body, as does the CDC and WHO websites.
Excerpt from the podcast:
“Based on the structure of the virus, it seems that there are a few possible qualities that allow it to spread so easily. It seems to stick to our cells more strongly and more readily. And it seems to be able to infect cells throughout a wider part of the airways. So the virus is basically a … ball with these proteins called spike proteins on the surface. Those spikes recognize and latch onto a protein called ACE2, which is found on the surface of our cells, and like a key fitting into a lock that is the first step to launching an infection. This is also what the original SARS virus did. It had spikes, which latched onto ACE2. But the specific shape of the spikes on this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, those spikes are much better at latching onto ACE2 they are a closer fit to the ACE2 protein.”

The field of health literacy continues to grow. Some scholars have addressed this in the past, yet it has not been successfully integrated. This is a line of inquiry we can look into further. We have some faculty at CUNY SPH who can further engage in developing culturally, linguistically and appropriate approaches for this important area of vaccine literacy. A forthcoming book by Rob Logan (Editor), Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines (IOS Press, 2020), has some chapters related to this area as well.

We all need to promote research, provide evidence, advance dialogue, and address this crisis in the broader socio-ecological context. Our ongoing CUNY SPH COVID-19 tracking survey effort offers an opportunity for demonstrating the disparities and how this crisis is impacting also other aspects of health (mental health, chronic health issues, etc.). Identification of the vulnerable segments of the population is only one part. We must also share ideas and work to promote equity and social justice in our actions, policies and society. This is the approach being taken by the team behind the CUNY SPH COVID-19 tracking survey.

David NabarroDavid Nabarro

World Health Organization Special Envoy on COVID-19
Co-Director of the Imperial College Institute of Global Health Innovation

Dr. Nabarro has devoted his life to the promotion of community-based urban health, including combating pandemic influenza, cholera, and Ebola, catalyzing change in global food security and nutrition, and promoting sustainable development. He has had an eminent career, working in more than 50 countries for over 40 years as a medical doctor, educator, international public servant, and diplomat. He supports systems leadership for sustainable development through his Switzerland based social enterprise, 4SD. Previously, as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition, he headed the UN’s response to the cholera epidemic in Haiti, and he was Special Advisor to the UN’s Secretary- General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Nabarro worked as a Medical Officer in North Iraq for Save the Children. He also worked for the WHO from 1999-2005 where, among other significant contributions to public health, he created the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2014 he coordinated the UN system’s High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security and tasked them with establishing a common strategy for addressing food and nutrition insecurity in a more sustainable, coordinated and comprehensive way. Subsequently he was appointed Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Ebola where he was responsible for ensuring that the UN system made an effective and coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the outbreak of Ebola.

He has received international recognition for his work including the World Food Prize in 2018 (with Dr. Lawrence Haddad) for his global leadership in elevating maternal and child undernutrition to a central issue within the food security dialogue, and the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award in 2015 for his work to ensure an effective response to Ebola. Dr. Nabarro was educated at London University (MSc in Public Health) and Oxford University (MD).

Ayman El-Mohandes

Ayman El-Mohandes

Dean of CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy

Dr. El-Mohandes is a pediatrician, epidemiologist, and academician with a deep commitment to public service; he serves an elected member of the executive board of the American Public Health Association. Prior to his appointment to CUNY in 2013, he served as Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska, where he was also professor of epidemiology at the College of Public Health, and professor of pediatrics and of obstetrics/gynecology at the College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center.

An established researcher in the field of infant mortality reduction in minority populations, Dr. El-Mohandes was supported by the NIH between 1994 and 2009 to conduct community-based interventions with pregnant women and new mothers in underserved communities. He has more than 100 citations published in the peer-reviewed literature, including published works on infant mortality in African-Americans and American Indians and Alaska Natives, preterm births, and the environmental effects of tobacco smoke on pregnancy outcomes.

Dr. El-Mohandes currently serves as the Dean of the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at the City University of New York. In this capacity he has dramatically expanded the school’s collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Under his leadership the New York City NHANES study was completed in 2014, and a new collaboration to pilot a community health workers’ initiative in East Harlem was launched in 2015. The CUNY School of Public Health currently is a collaborative home, along with the NYU School of Medicine, to the CDC Prevention Center in New York City. The School has expanded significantly with 50 faculty and more than 600 graduate students, and a revitalized research portfolio. In the past year the School has established two new institutes, one addressing urban food policy and the other focused on implementation science.

Oxiris Barbot

Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Dr. Barbot is the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. Barbot most recently served as the first deputy commissioner and oversaw development and implementation of agency priorities, including Take Care New York 2020 (#TCNY2020), the City’s data-driven health agenda focused on addressing the social determinants of health and engaging communities on the issues of health equity.

Dr. Barbot has over 25 years of experience in advancing health equity and providing healthcare in urban communities. She previously served as commissioner of health for Baltimore City, where she led the development of Healthy Baltimore 2015, a health policy program focused on improving health outcomes by focusing on areas where the largest impact could be made to raise the quality of life. Prior, Dr. Barbot served as medical director of the Office of School Health at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the NYC Department of Education. Before working in New York, Dr. Barbot was the chief of pediatrics and community medicine at Unity Health Care, Inc., a federally qualified health center in Washington, DC.

Dr. Barbot received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and holds a medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She completed her pediatric residency at George Washington University’s Children’s National Medical Center.

Distinguished Professor Denis Nash

Denis Nash

Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology
Executive Director of the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health

Dr. Nash is an epidemiologist with over 20 years of experience and leadership in conducting epidemiologic studies. His central interests include infectious diseases, the field of public health surveillance and the use of public health surveillance data to conduct rigorous assessments of programmatic effectiveness and the impact of policies on health. He has worked extensively in domestic and international settings conducting large-scale, ‘real-world’ epidemiologic studies examining key outcomes among persons with HIV infection.

Dr. Nash has worked at the forefront of the emerging field of implementation science, and is the founding Executive Director of CUNY’s new interdisciplinary Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. He has published over 150 scientific articles and his research is primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is the Associate Director of the Einstein-Rockefeller-CUNY Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and Director the Implementation Science and Health Outcomes Core of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University. Dr. Nash also serves as a standing member on the National Institutes of Health study section review panels.

Examples of recent studies led by Dr. Nash include the CHORDS Study evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of HIV care coordination at improving HIV viral suppression among over 7,000 persons living with HIV in New York City’s Ryan White Program; the LSTART Study, which enrolled and followed over 1,200 persons initiating HIV treatment in Ethiopia to identify factors associated with late HIV treatment initiation; and the IeDEA Central Africa regional collaboration, which is an implementation science study that follows over 50,000 persons enrolled in HIV care in 5 Central African countries (Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Republic of Congo, and Rwanda). Dr. Nash also led the development of New York’s Ending the Epidemic Dashboard system, which tracks the progress of Governor Cuomo’s initiative to End New York’s AIDS Epidemic by the end of 2020.

Scott RatzanScott Ratzan

Distinguished Lecturer and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives

Dr. Ratzan is the first Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY SPH bringing three decades of pioneering accomplishments domestically and globally in health communication, health literacy and strategic diplomacy. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, established in 1995. He recently was Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School where he published “Guiding Principles for Multisector Engagement for Sustainable Health (MESH) and a series of published articles related to vaccine communication in the Washington Post, Financial Tines, JAMA and Lancet Infectious Disease. He currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Board on Global Health, the RAND Health Advisory Board, and Vice Chair of World Information Transfer, a UN accredited NGO.

His experience has been in multiple sectors including development of multisectoral approaches to reduce harmful drinking, restrictions on tobacco, and promotion women and children’s health. His prior global roles were in Brussels with Johnson & Johnson and also at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC. He has also served as Co-Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Innovation Working Group in support of Every Woman Every Child as Vice Chair of the Business Industry Advisory Council’s Health Committee to the OECD, on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Well-Being and Mental Health, and was appointed to serve on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Board of Scientific Counselors for the Office of Infectious Disease.

Scott has an M.D. from the University of Southern California, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School, and an M.A. in Communication from Emerson College. His academic appointments include Adjunct Professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, Tufts University School of Medicine, and George Washington University School of Public Health.