Academia and Frontline Public Health Workers Must Work Together

Faculty Headshot for Sandra I. McCoy

Professor Sandra McCoy.

In an opinion piece in Public Health Reports, UC Berkeley School of Public Health epidemiology professor Sandra McCoy and the University of North Carolina’s Pia MacDonald suggest that collaboration between academia and frontline public health workers is essential to our nation’s health security.

“Decay in federal support for public health security has resulted in the decline of formalized partnerships between academic schools of public health and the public health workforce,” McCoy said. “These structural linkages (in the past) exposed students to careers in health security, fostered academic research with practical, policy-relevant public health benefits, brought technical expertise to local governments, and served as surge capacity for public health threats.”

McCoy and MacDonald say that the decrease in academic-public partnerships has resulted in fewer public health program graduates, a decreased level of expertise in health security, fewer faculty members with applied public health experience, and, most significantly, a lessening of the ability of public health academic programs to reinforce local and state departments during a public health crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic

“Divestment in linkages between academic and practice may have contributed directly to delays or mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis,” McCoy said. “We call for renewed investment in structural linkages between academic schools of public health and local, state, and federal public health practice.” 

Read the full article at Public Health Reports.