Boots on the ground: How College of Public Health faculty and students are tackling COVID-19 in Ohio

From key  research to expertise on modeling, the Ohio State University College of Public Health has been a continually active force in the response to the rising threat of COVID-19 in Ohio. Their work has provided essential benefits and informed advice to high-ranking public officials such as Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton (a 1996 graduate of our college) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Their partnership has slowly shaped the state’s containment strategies, and with local businesses slowly beginning to reopen and people returning to a more extroverted daily life, the information exchanged between college and state government only becomes more significant.

“Public health is always aiming to empower communities, to step in and help but also to leave them with the knowledge and resources to sustain change. The work of public health is far from just academic — we are always driven to be boots on the ground,” said Dean Amy Fairchild, whose work in the past two months has included advising and collaborating with university leaders as they grapple with the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

CPH faculty are working in several areas as the state relaxes social distancing measures. Among those efforts are continued modeling efforts regarding social distancing, community efforts to help vulnerable or impoverished Ohioans from the spread of disease, and creating various  models to bolster Ohio’s response while also minimizing economic damages.

CPH faculty that have been involved with these sweeping changes include TDAI Affiliates Ayaz Hyder, Eben Kenah, Grzegorz Rempala, and Elisabeth Dowling Root. Students are working alongside faculty on many of these endeavors, and are playing a key role in a partnership to help the state with contact tracing to reduce disease transmission.

Public Health faculty are also contributing to the plans for relaxed social distancing by working to determine the scope of exposure and potential immunity in the general population — a key question that cannot be answered based on only those who have received tests or been hospitalized. Faculty are also providing expert advice to state lawmakers beyond the governor’s office as they examine appropriate policy responses to the pandemic.

In addition to this support, the college has started its own in-house effort to bring together expert volunteers with community organizations, including local health departments and local businesses that need help navigating these challenging times and those to come. COVID Connect is operated by the college’s Center for Public Health Practice, includes volunteers from throughout the university and beyond, and is beginning to serve as a valuable resource for communities throughout Ohio. The College hopes that COVID Connect will have benefits that long outlast the crest of the pandemic, creating a resource that will assist public health experts for untold years to come. But for now, still in the midst of the COVID epidemic, the collaborations made around and outside the university will continue to improve the conditions of today, one informed decision at a time.

To read the full, original article by Misti Crane on the College of Public Health website, please click here.

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