COVID-19 Has Led to the Reformation and Reinvigoration of the Public Health Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a robust public health system that can actively respond to the next public health emergency and ongoing health disparities. In a paper published in the American Bar Association’s Health Law Section, Emely Sanchez, M.P.H., who is an alumna of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health program and now a third-year J.D. candidate at the School of Law, describes how the pandemic has led to the reformation and reinvigoration of the public health workforce.

“The pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has brought a reckoning in public health worldwide,” noted Sanchez, who served as the sole author of the paper. “Throughout this time, the public health workforce has been exposed, overburdened, under-resourced, and overly criticized. When the pandemic ends, it will be necessary to examine not only the nation’s emergency response, but also the future of domestic public health.”

Sanchez emphasized that increasing workforce development through skill-building and infrastructure, strengthening and improving technology, and prioritizing health equity are fundamental areas that will likely be further developed and implemented during and after the pandemic.

The paper, which is the first for Sanchez, details the ways in which the public health workforce should be assisted. These include:

  • Being continuously funded and expanded to address future emergency health threats, improve social determinants of health, and address ongoing health disparities
  • Help bolster skills and training in the public health workforce, such as in strategic skills and systems thinking, which are two skills that are considered critical needs in the workforce
  • Viewing public health as a tool for social justice and inclusive health policy, as it is crucial to address persistent structural health disparities
  • Assist in building collaborative partnerships to tackle future public health emergencies and disparities by facilitating action through increasing resources and expanding capacity
  • Being provided training to understand, use, and explain public health law and policy
  • Strengthen effective communication skills to translate important policy decisions and crucial public health measures, as well as invest in communication initiatives and skill-building in order to reduce misinformation and loss of public trust
  • Include technological advancements and services that will expand and facilitate the role of public health throughout the larger health ecosystem 

“Improvements to these fundamental areas will help create an innovative and efficient public health system,” noted Sanchez. “Public health post-COVID-19 will require a system that is actively becoming better prepared for the next pandemic.”

Sanchez is the President of Miami Law’s Health Law Association, is currently the American Bar Association’s Health Law Section’s Student Liaison and has interned with several federal agencies and congressional offices. 

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on February 11, 2021