By Daniel Stein

The assessment about Covid-19 from one of our presenters at last week’s NIC webinar was quite straightforward. “We don’t know what to do,” said Pierre-Gerlier (PG) Forest, Director of the School of Public Policy, Calgary University. Against that stark but unsurprising backdrop, the 120-plus participants in the webinar went on to hear an array of important and insightful information.

Indeed, even as they agreed a clear path forward is still tough to see, all three presenters last Friday stimulated our thinking and provided significant ideas for possible next steps. Our other speakers were Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive Officer of the European Social Network, and Karen Smith, former Director of California’s Department of Public Health. The webinar, which is available for replay if you missed it, was titled “Global Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities from Covid-19.”

What was clear from both our speakers and attendees was that it’s inevitable that pandemic cases will continue to increase everywhere. Karen was particularly concerned about the recent upsurge within the US, which she attributed in large parts to many states reopening “too early.” 

Furthermore, all the presenters underscored that we are going to see long-term effects on people’s economic and mental stability, and we don’t know if health and human services systems are going to be able to keep up with this increase in demand. The challenge ahead was equally clear; that is, to make plans and take actions (even amid the uncertainty of the moment) that will enable the systems designed to help and protect people to better-prepare for the next major health crisis. 

As Alfonso discussed his perspective on issues related to Covid-19, he shared that across all European countries, family networks are becoming weaker due to social isolation and the variety of difficulties people are facing as they try to access health and social services. This observation really stood out, because the problems he described in Europe are the same ones that the United States and Canada are facing. So, for all the differences among various nations and their approaches, it’s unmistakable that this really is a global problem – and we truly need to learn from each other in order to accelerate progress. 

Attendees for the conversation last Friday, as is the case with our webinars every week, were highly engaged and provided their own important stories and insights. A few examples included:

  • Many electronic health record platforms serve the global community. It would be helpful to identify existing assets to build upon and then address gaps among various countries.
  • Information needs to be coordinated and shared across healthcare, social services and emergency services.
  • A global forum on the Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being is needed now.

Let's Shape a National Equity Action Agenda to Advance Upstream SDOH

The discussion made it clear that now more than ever, there’s a big need for a coordinated response between health and human services systems, as well as new research agenda to support that goal. For that reason and many others, Stewards of Change Institute – along with the Stanford University Center for Population Health Sciences and additional organizational collaborators across the country – are creating a National Equity Action Agenda to Advance Upstream SDOH

The Action Agenda will include an integrated series of ambitious activities throughout this year and beyond, with the intention of advancing cross-sector data-sharing, interoperability and collaboration. We believe that this coordinated, strategic approach will not only contribute to a better response to health crises such as COVID-19, but will also advance person-centered care, broader health equity and social justice. Please join the team if you want to participate in this unique effort. Meanwhile, feel free to share your input/questions in the comments section below, and/or by attending upcoming webinars.



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