At the end of January, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the COVID-19 Response Interim Review: January 2020 through December 2021. For this review, independent consultants interviewed over 65 state and local officials involved in North Carolina’s pandemic response, in order to “reflect on and encapsulate some of the emerging lessons learned from the first 20 months of the pandemic in North Carolina.” The goal is to help NCDHHS “learn, identify opportunities for improvement, and begin the forward-looking work of strengthening our state’s capacity to respond to future public health emergencies more swiftly and effectively.”
The interim review compiled lessons and experiences from stakeholders and identified strengths and challenges in response across the following areas: progress to date in the fight against COVID-19; meeting critical individual needs; maintaining health system capacity; vaccination and treatment; building trust during crisis and change; and collaboration in a decentralized model.
Interviewees discussed their experiences working with and within NCDHHS and identified several lessons from the COVID-19 response. Those lessons included:
time of crisis. Trust must be earned through intentional relationships, consistency, resources,
criticism, and pivot as the pandemic changes.
influences behavior change.
discourse related to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.
With a similar eye toward learning from the pandemic response, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, in partnership with the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health and with support from the Duke Endowment and NCDHHS, has been convening the Carolinas Pandemic Preparedness Task Force. Starting in July 2021, this two-state task force has been examining lessons from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic for health care, education, and social and economic stability, with a specific lens on equity in the impact of and response to the pandemic. The task force will continue meeting through April 2022, with a final report to be published in June. The Carolinas Pandemic Preparedness Task Force has identified many similar emerging themes to those listed in the NCDHHS COVID-19 Response Interim Review. These themes include:
The NCIOM Task Force on the Future of Local Public Health also aims to address infrastructure needs, funding supports, and lessons from the pandemic for North Carolina’s local public health departments. This task force aims to develop a vision for the future of local public health in the state focused on principles of health equity, leadership, connection between clinical services and population health, opportunities for targeted investments, public communication about the value of public health, and data integration to drive improvements in service delivery and outcomes. Convened in August 2021 in partnership with Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, this task force will issue full recommendations in May 2022, themes of which include: