Health sector applies lessons learned from Covid to other public health concerns

“I hope your business never has to deal with an overdose, but keep Narcan on hand just in case,” said Piccolo, director of the Park City County Health Department, hotel manager. told to

The manager listened to Piccolo’s instructions on how to use Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, and added four boxes of nasal spray to the hotel’s first aid kit.

The transaction took less than 10 minutes. It was his third hotel, which Piccolo visited on his hot July day, in Livingston, a mountain town of about 8,000 people. There, as in many parts of the country, health officials are concerned about the recent increase in the use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

It was the first time the local health department provided door-to-door training and supplies to prevent overdose deaths. The underlying strategy was built during a pandemic when public health officials distributed rapid testing and vaccines in high-risk settings.

“We’ve learned this from covid,” said county public health officer Dr. Laurel Desnick. “We go to people who may not have time to come to us.”

Dr. Laurel Desnick, public health officer for the Park City County Health Department in Montana, prepares to deliver a box of Narkan to a local hotel. Free distribution of Narcan, the brand name for the drug naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdoses, is one public health strategy he has emerged from the covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has exposed gaps and disparities in the U.S. public health system and has often led to backlash against local authorities seeking to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But his one positive result, bolstered in part by increased federal funding, is that health care workers can apply lessons learned from the response to covid-19 to other aspects of their jobs. It started.

In Atlanta, for example, the county health department planned to mail in at-home kits to test for illness, but the program is modeled after the distribution of rapid COVID-19 tests. In Houston, health officials announced this month that they will begin monitoring monkeypox in the city’s wastewater. And in Chicago, government agencies tweaked covid collaborations to tag-team the rise in gun violence.
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Some of these adaptations will cost little, such as using vans purchased with covid relief money to deliver vaccines or test for illness, and will be relatively easy to incorporate into the department’s post-pandemic work. Other tools are more expensive and time consuming, such as updating covid-borne data and surveillance systems, for use in other ways.

Some public health workers fear the lessons woven into their work will be lost once the pandemic has passed.

“When a public health crisis hits the country, it tends to create a cycle of funding booms and busts,” said Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Some federal pandemic relief funds are set to last for years, but other allocations have already dried up. Local health workers will prioritize what they will fund with what is left.

Meanwhile, the historically understaffed and underfunded health sector is grappling with challenges exacerbated during the pandemic, including delays in mental health treatment and routine care.

“We should not just start where we were two and a half years ago, but actually climb higher mountains,” Casarotti said. “But where we have been able to build parts of the system, we can adapt them to help us understand public health challenges in more real time.”

In Atlanta, the Fulton County Health Board has offered to mail residents a free at-home test for STDs. The state is historically one of the areas with the highest reported incidence of her STDs in the country.

“This program has the power to demonstrate the scalable effects of equitable access to historically underserved communities,” said Joshua, director of the county’s sexual health program. O’Neill said in a press release announcing the kit.

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Change is not limited to governments. Researchers at the University of Texas are attempting a statewide program to crowdsource data on fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses. I am frustrated that national efforts to prevent overdose have not led to an overdose epidemic.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Alwadi said her team is expanding its covid data-driven approach to track and report neighborhood-level data on opioid drug overdoses. rice field. Nonprofits and city agencies that have worked together throughout the pandemic meet monthly to look at numbers to shape the response.

Alwadi said the city is looking to use the funding and increased interest from the pandemic for programs that will continue beyond the COVID-19 emergency.

“We have this debate every day, ‘How long can it last? How big can it go?'” Aarwadi said. “We feel that right now is the moment. We have shown what we can do during COVID-19.

The city also opened a new safety center modeled after a COVID-19 response hub to combat gun violence. Employees in various departments of the city will track data, connect people in the most at-risk neighborhoods to services, and support local initiatives such as funding neighborhood block clubs and restoring safe spaces. So, for the first time, we are cooperating on safety issues.
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Separately, community-based organizations set up to deal with COVID-19 contact tracing and education are shifting their focus to addressing food security, violence prevention and diabetes education. Arwady is using a patchwork of grants to keep his 150 of his 600 people initially employed through pandemic relief funds to reach grassroots public outreach in areas with longstanding health disparities. He said he wanted to continue his hygiene efforts.

“The message I’ve really been passing on to the team is, ‘This is our chance to do something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,'” Arwady said. “We built part of it. We kick and scream before we tear it all down.”

Back in Montana, Desnick said not all changes depend on funding.

When floodwaters destroyed buildings and infrastructure in and around Yellowstone National Park in June, the Park County Department of Health used lists of contacts collected during the pandemic to help schools, churches, and businesses. sent an update to

Desnick has a regular public health video that starts with COVID case numbers and expands to include information on flood levels, federal cleanup assistance, and ice cream socials for people to meet first responders. post an update.

Piccolo, the county health director, traveled about an hour that day in July to a hotel in central Livingston to provide opioid overdose response training and equipment. Three hotel her managers accepted her offer, two asked her to come back after her, and one scheduled training for all staff later that week. Piccolo plans to expand the program to restaurants and music venues.

Such adaptations to her work do not require a continuous stream of covid aid. Otherwise, “just take your time doing this,” she said.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. KHN is one of the three main operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), along with policy analysis and polls. KFF is a donated non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the public.

Fix: Kaiser Health News updated the caption to correct Dr. Laurel Desnick’s title.

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