Lab Matters Spring 2022 | Page 12


Connecting with Environmental Health System Partners in a Pandemic

By Marilyn B . Freeman , PhD , deputy director , Department of General Services , Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services ; Lucas Beversdorf , MS , PhD , assistant laboratory director , City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory ; Kristin Schieble , MLS ( ASCP ) CM , laboratory operations manager , City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory ; Julie Plevak , program assistant , City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory ; Sanjib Bhattacharyya , PhD , laboratory director and special deputy health commissioner , City of Milwaukee Health Department ; and Erin Morin , MHS , associate specialist , Environmental Health
In 2020 , APHL , with funding support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), awarded the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services ( DCLS ) and the City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory ( MHDL ) funding to facilitate environmental health system meetings . The goal of these meetings was to help organizations within their respective environmental health systems to better meet community environmental health needs , such as testing for biological and chemical contaminants of emerging concerns in water sources , and emergency response . Unfortunately , pandemic-related restrictions forced DCLS and MHDL to alter their plans for in-person meetings .
Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services
COVID-19 restrictions prevented DCLS from fulfilling the original goal of the grant — to engage stakeholders face-toface regarding forever chemicals such as per- and polyfluoralkyl substances ( PFAS ). DCLS project managers determined many of the issues the laboratory faced were exacerbated by the lack of available information on the DCLS website . DCLS sought to better inform and connect with health system partners and the public by providing a detailed test catalogue with a clear explanation of offered services , while adding a section for frequently asked questions and new developments at DCLS . project was not completed as originally designed , it improved the health literacy related to environmental topics by ensuring basic information was easier to find and understand , contributing to the empowerment for all stakeholders and promoting engagement in a different way .
Laboratories intending to complete a similar project should incorporate the web design team as early as possible when determining content changes . While an updated presentation of the environmental test catalog was one of the key updates targeted for the site , the management team envisioned a format that was not attainable using the capabilities of the current website design platform .
City of Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic , MHDL held a virtual meeting to strengthen public health laboratory and environmental health relationships with the goal of improving water quality and reducing risk of waterborne pathogens within the Southeastern Wisconsin water systems . Experts in drinking , waste and recreational water gave overview presentations on current trends , regulations and technologies .
Approximately 50 regional stakeholders met in breakout groups to discuss successes , knowledge gaps and potential improvements .
APHL ’ s Laboratory System Improvement Program ( L-SIP ) criteria were used to assess essential public health services . Common themes included major strengths in enhanced monitoring , risk assessments , quality research and data , and public-academic partnership . However , knowledge gaps were evident in areas of public access to data and data sharing , data modernization , sustained funding , and a lack of early childhood education in water quality and safety . Partners agreed that environmental health systems ( EHS ) could benefit from a unified champion to integrate systems , create a community of practice , improve citizen science and science communication , and promote environmental health and laboratory careers .
Funding support for the meeting was received from APHL and CDC . It was facilitated by UW Madison-Extension , and active participation from EHS partners . A final report highlighted achievements and next steps to strengthen EHS partnerships with stakeholders ’ input in focusing and prioritizing specific areas for system improvements . •
The website project team conducted internal surveys to inform proposed content changes and reached out to key stakeholders to discuss information that would be of value . Website additions were targeted to provide the most essential information , while allowing flexibility for future updates and the ability to link to partner agency sites . While the
Figure 1 . Screen shot of DCLS ’ s new website
10 LAB MATTERS Spring 2022
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