OAHHS Hospital Voice Fall/Winter 2021-22

32 » A magazine for and about Oregon Community Hospitals. learned something new or have a new tool. We are also having to combat misinformation. So not just OK, we learned this, the virus is behaving this way, so we are going to change our recommendation and we want you to do this now, but we also have a counter voice for many of these policy recommendations that isn’t based on data necessarily but is based on sometimes the dark recesses of the internet. So, we have to be able to combat that. Those stories can spread as quickly as our stories can so that has been a challenge, and we’re all facing it together to try and have a voice. We’re never going to face the virus in the same way in Vermont as we do in Mississippi as we do in Oregon as we do in California. But looking at the same research and tools that we have is our basis in public health and how they’re implemented in the population that we’re addressing are going to be different. We want everyone to have the same opportunities at protection and being able to weather the pandemic. The pandemic has been a big spotlight on every aspect of the health care system. From where you sit, what are the areas that are deficient or are areas of focus that we need to work on as a society moving forward? What I’ll start with is what we see in public health, my colleagues at the state, local, federal, and tribal level, have done an amazing job combatting this virus, this pandemic, for almost two years now. What we have seen is that underinvestment over time in public health does take a toll whether that’s staff capacity, data systems and connectivity that maybe aren’t the same as they are in our health care colleagues, that does take a toll. We do focus on the next crisis and being able to respond but responding at the crisis/emergent level can’t last long term. In fighting this pandemic, which we began facing in January of 2020 with cases in China and talking about repatriation of Oregonians back, even before we had a case, this kind of pace is not sustainable with our current system. I think what COVID, the disease itself, as well as our response, with moving to Stay Home/Save Lives last year, many folks middle class and upper class where they had jobs where they could work from home, could do their jobs and minimized the contact, experienced the pandemic one way, and then other folks who lived in a skilled nursing facility who felt very isolated from their families and their loved ones and had to face the pandemic a different way, to someone who worked maybe as a bus driver or in a grocery store who had to continue to come to work every day and had contact with the public immensely, we uncovered some issues with economics and health, racism and bias, that came not just because of the communities people lived in and the exposures that they had and how much they were impacted by COVID, our communities of color being much more impacted, but even just looking at the bias against Asian Americans early on in the pandemic because of the association with China, when our Latino neighbors in Oregon with our first case being a Latino and the bias that was faced by many of our neighbors just from that one case and people making generalizations, it’s uncovered those. So, I want to shift a little bit, we came into the pandemic with some strengths, and I think are going to help us in Oregon come out stronger. As an agency, the Oregon Health Authority has a goal of eliminating health inequities within a decade. We’re not going to do that alone, but this crisis, the racial justice movement that happened through much of 2020 that continues to happen brought some attention there. We have a state health improvement plan that focuses on the economic drivers of health, institutional bias, and structural racism, the toxic effects of stress. And so having thought about how we in public health were going to address those big issues, with partners because we can’t do it alone, was our foundation coming into the pandemic, and that’s the foundation we need even more now coming out of the pandemic. I think what it’s uncovered are societal issues that as a public health