Virtual Forum—Fighting For Our Lives: Public Health Historical Context for COVID-19 – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Virtual Forum—Fighting For Our Lives: Public Health Historical Context for COVID-19

Aug 13, 2020

On Thursday, August 13th, Health & Medicine hosted part one of a two-part forum series sharing a historical look at our public health infrastructure, spending, and workforce, which has been spotlighted by COVID-19. In 2019, the U.S. ranked #1 for being the most prepared for a pandemic.

How did the U.S. rank so well in pandemic preparedness but have such major problems in its overall response to COVID-19? While it’s worth looking at the actions of individual elected and appointed officials, a crucial part of the story is the history and current state of our public health system.

Chicago Health Justice Forum: A Virtual Discussion
Fighting For Our Lives: Public Health Historical Context For COVID-19 Pt. 1
Thursday, August 13th, 4-5:30 pm CT

We explored such questions as:

  • How has funding and workforce investment in public health changed over time?
  • What decisions shaped the public health system in the decades leading up to COVID-19?
  • What are the links among divestment from public health, long-term patterns of health inequity, and root causes, such as racism and other systems of oppression?
  • What kind of public health system do we need to advance health justice and to be prepared for current and future public health challenges?
Forum Panelists
Moderator: Linda Rae Murray, MD, MPH, Health & Medicine board member, Past President of the American Public Health Association
Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH Executive Director, Harris County Public Health, Houston, TX
Sandra Martell, DNP, MS, Public Health Administrator, Winnebago County Health Department

Stephen A. Martin, Jr., PhD, MPH, Executive Director, CPASS Foundation

Months ago, public health was not even a section in most news publications. In the era of COVID-19, public health is front and center in publications and public discourse. Yet, public health topics––both the field of practice and the relevant issues––were there all along. Our society lacks a sustained commitment to public health.

What does this cost us in terms of health inequity, reduced well-being, and loss of life on an ongoing basis? How can we build a strong public health system moving forward?

This two-part forum series included an exploration of the history of public health within the context of austerity and privatization. We explored opportunities to develop a stronger constituency for the public health system.