Post-COVID-19 public health education: a proposal for critical revisions

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Abdul Ghaffar, Sabina Faiz Rashid, Rhoda Kitti Wanyenze, Adnan A Hyder

Improving the health of people is an essential and perhaps one of the most important functions of any government; health is not only a factor in overall development, but also an important factor in poverty reduction. To ensure the health of their populations, nations build health infrastructure and invest in well-trained health workers. Knowledge, expertise and a skilled workforce in public health play an essential role in disease prevention, health promotion, program development, monitoring and evaluation of health systems. Schools of public health (and related institutions) around the world play a key role in generating such a workforce and have traditionally focused on skills in areas such as epidemiology, statistics, health systems, disease prevention, health economics and environmental health.

COVID-19 is the first pandemic to strike the world since the early 1900s and has amplified existing inequalities and injustices around the world. Combating the pandemic requires not only a biomedical approach, but also the integration of a broader social science approach to health and, more fundamentally, listening to and learning from the various communities and existing health systems, flexibility and the ability to work in all sectors; and the recognition of social justice, equity and human rights as basic principles, while undertaking public health actions in various contexts. This situation has also prompted reflection on potential lessons for public health education. Just as past societal, political and epidemiological changes have driven developments within public health, we believe that enhanced public health can emerge from these tumultuous times.

The ongoing pandemic has made it clear to the global health community that there is a need to further build capacity, skills and knowledge in certain areas of public health being taught at this stage, such as public health policy. , working with communities in our approach to community engagement and trust, and the promotion of interdisciplinary research. However, there are other areas of knowledge and skills that are essential to respond to and manage such pandemics. The pandemic demands new investments in schools of public health, so that they develop and implement the delivery of new courses and methods to acquire the relevant skills. We propose at least four other areas for schools of public health to consider for the development of new or strengthened educational strategies for a post-COVID world.

First, and perhaps quite essential, is the training and expertise in supply chain management. Supply chain management focused on prevention and health care is often taught in management schools, but is not covered or required in public health schools. Purchase, storage and distribution of drugs and other supplies, such as masks and other personal protective devices; equipment such as fans; and COVID-19 vaccines have become a serious challenge, not only for ministries of health but also for global health agencies. This challenge requires expertise and contextualized solutions, in today’s global public health workforce and which can change not only the future of COVID-19 and other disease threats, but also health agendas. in general.

A second need is the expertise and skills to identify and reduce the effect and spread of disinformation and fake news. The WHO calls this an “infodemic” – a vast array of online and offline information that undermines public health through misinformation and misinformation. To mitigate the impact of this infodemic, WHO urges Member States to redouble their efforts to communicate clearly, taking into account the cultural perspectives of responses to epidemics / pandemics, scientifically accurate information and for technology companies, in particular social media companies, to react more. responsible for communication and health education. The infodemic has been linked to growing reluctance to take the COVID-19 vaccine and public anger and anxieties over preventative measures such as lockdowns. Although health communication is at the heart of public health education, it has often not kept up with the incredibly rapid changes in technology and social media. Additionally, sometimes the assumption that top-down communication from experts will lead to behavior change persists. However, the power of online communication is that it is unmediated, peer-distributed, delivered through storytelling with emotional force, and is customizable messaging or meming. Added to this is the growing contempt and distrust of experts and the increasingly violent rhetoric used against them. We fear that such rapid and groundbreaking changes are simply well ahead of what is traditionally taught in many schools of public health. Public health professionals need to understand the importance of this, learn and use communication messages and guidelines in the context of the new information ecology, and be culturally appropriate and contextualized rather than relying solely on clinical management approaches, as has been seen in many countries to manage COVID-19[FEMININEL’éducationensantépubliquedoitformerdesleaderscapablesdesuivrelerythmeetlesinstitutionsdoiventdévelopperdesstratégiespédagogiquespourapprendreetcomprendrelanouvellescienceetl’artdelacommunicationensanté

Third, we offer the development of expertise in learning and application of technologies in collecting data, synthesizing available information and disseminating decisions in a timely manner. In recent years, digital technology has been increasingly central to education and training in most schools of public health; however, the speed of change in such approaches often exceeds the usual educational updates. We believe that recent advances in machine-readable technology and artificial intelligence will be a game-changer in the diagnosis, assessment and management of health systems, especially during emergencies and epidemics.

Finally, we believe that a prioritization and resource allocation should become the core of any public health program. While lectures on these topics are often found in management, health systems, or ethics courses, they may not be required as required courses or may be covered in depth. The distribution of personal protective equipment, vaccine allocation issues, ethical concerns about the criteria, and the need for careful consideration of key technical and moral issues around COVID-19 have revealed a significant need for such skills in health systems. The public health workforce of tomorrow must be able to negotiate these sensitive and vital issues with an informed, pragmatic and ethical approach; and schools of public health can ensure that their graduates have these essential knowledge and skills.

We urge deans and directors of schools of public health globally to consider all of the above and mentioned topical areas as central to public health education, and encourage their faculty to develop appropriate courses and improve their own skills in such training. We also join others in calling on public health statutory and funding bodies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the United States Medical Research Councils, to provide funds to help develop such programs and advance the research needed in these areas.

Today, public health education is training good scientists, practitioners and policy makers; and many of us are products of the current system. But current systems may require rapid improvement to produce the kind of public health professionals capable of responding to pandemics or a post-pandemic world. We believe that public health is the widest bridge between science and society; and to maintain this position, a thoughtful improvement in the quality of public health education may be necessary. We welcome the debate and continued dialogue on this issue of global importance.

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