Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 11

FEATURE
“ The management of public heath data in the US is a mess and has always been that way , mostly because it ’ s never been funded ,” says Peter Kyriacopoulos , APHL ’ s chief policy officer . Instead of one standard system , there are now over 100 systems to report public health data to CDC . Once the data arrives , only the people on the receiving end know about the data or have access to them .
“ The first thing we ’ re trying to do is help CDC implement an enterprise-wide approach to the management of data so that you no longer have a myriad of ways of doing things and that everybody at CDC has access to all of the information ,” Kyriacopoulos says .
In one example , CDC has developed a National Public Health Framework for the Prevention and Control of Vector- Borne Diseases in Humans . The project was developed through the collaboration of the CDC , US EPA and five federal departments .
The framework details the strategic priorities of the federal government to prevent and control vector-borne disease and calls for the formation of a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders that includes state health departments , health care providers , academic and industry partners , policymakers , public health nonprofits and patients .
However , the framework has not yet been funded . Kyriacopoulos estimates it will take at least $ 100 million to get it up and running . But in President Biden ’ s fiscal year 2022 budget request , only $ 42 million is allocated for vector-borne diseases .
The administration does acknowledge climate change and has addressed it in its Build Back Better Agenda , which would establish an energy efficiency and clean energy standard , expand and extend clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits , and enlist a new Civilian Climate Corps .
In addition , public health finally received some much-needed attention during the COVID-19 pandemic , including a substantial boost in funding as part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March 2021 . The $ 1.9 trillion rescue package is designed to help the US recover from both the economic and health effects of the pandemic . APHL received
The first thing we ’ re trying to do is help CDC implement an enterprisewide approach to the management of data so that you no longer have a myriad of ways of doing things and that everybody at CDC has access to all of the information .”
Peter Kyriacopoulos
almost $ 300 million from the plan to provide fellowships and internships to support the public health laboratory workforce .
“ That is just a massive increase over any funding that APHL had ever gotten for fellowships and internships ,” Kyriacopoulos says . “ That ’ s another Biden initiative that was both very different from the way previous administrations had been thinking and also a very demonstrable increase in support for addressing public health laboratory workforce .”
Funding and staffing resources have always been a laboratory challenge in many states . Public health laboratories are often fee-for-service and don ’ t usually have the funds to create programs on their own . And those working on climate change-related projects , such as examining air and water quality , don ’ t immediately think of the laboratories as obvious partners , experts say .
With the American Rescue Plan funding , APHL is expanding its current fellowship program offerings and recruiting for two classes of fellows in 2022 . One class will begin in January 2022 . Recruitment is open now for a second fellowship class and a new internship initiative​ — both programs will begin in summer 2022 . Applications are also open for laboratories to apply to host a fellow .
With a fellow or intern adding to their workforce , laboratories might consider allowing that individual to target a project related to climate change data and outcomes , Nassif says . “ This would be a great fellow project — to have them come in and look at the environmental data , look at the health data , and make the connections for a very small geographic area . It could be a demonstration of proof of concept that could be then used to scale up at a larger level .”
Laboratories might also be able to get involved in projects related to the CDC Building Resilience Against Climate Effects ( BRACE ) framework , which provided grants to state health departments to develop strategies and programs to help communities prepare for the health effects of climate change . Even though CDC did not specifically point to public health laboratories as potential partners , APHL has been advocating for CDC to include public health laboratories in the next round of grants and is encouraging grantees to reach out to public health laboratory professionals .
It is also incumbent on APHL and its partner organizations to highlight the connection between climate change and harmful health effects so that overworked public health workers see the critical importance of considering climate change .
The challenge is for organizations such as APHL , the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials , the National Association of County and City Health Officials , and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists “ to share the message about the health impacts of climate and the importance of working collaboratively to try and gather information and come up with solutions , or at least interventions ,” Nassif says .
Nassif hopes to bring together a group of partners to discuss climate change collaborations , perhaps in 2022 .
“ This is a really exciting opportunity , and if we can bring that group together , and frame this appropriately , I think this could be an important program , with huge , positive impacts . We just need to wrap our heads around what the problem is , how we might be able to contribute to the solution , and start chipping away at it .” n
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