The unfolding of the coronavirus pandemic is a pivotal moment, one that will shape us individually and collectively for years to come. Experiencing these events as an early career public health professional has brought to mind lessons I have learned about the value of public health evidence. Having reliable information in this time is critical, particularly as we are called to do our part in curbing the spread of the virus through social distancing. As a public health professional, I support my personal network of family and friends by sharing meaningful evidence. I share information to stay connected and highlight how public health works and what we know about this novel virus, and I offer a perspective on what the mitigation efforts we are living through mean for our health. Within my state, this includes watching a daily press conference hosted by the governor of Ohio, reading updates from my colleagues in epidemiology, and searching emerging research for information about the virus.
Lessons in how to evaluate evidence were among the most important that I learned through my doctoral studies. Experience in how to do so was bolstered by my role as the first student editor of AJPH. By working with editor-in-chief Alfredo Morabia, MD, PhD, and the entire editorial team of the Journal, I learned the value of strong public health evidence and how to identify it. I developed these skills by working with associate editors as they made decisions about which articles to feature and about finding leading public health professionals to provide editorials. Through these activities, I strengthened my ability to think critically about evidence, observed firsthand how evidence is vetted, and participated directly in the important work of the Journal. I also acquired insight into how important the dissemination of research is. Sharing evidence and results with the broader community is an essential piece of the research process. Through my experience as student editor, I acquired a deep appreciation for this process that I now apply to my own work as a postdoctoral researcher. This has become particularly relevant in these times, as wide dissemination of evidence about coronavirus is informing the actions taken at all levels of the public health system.
When I view these experiences in light of the current pandemic, it is clear that the work of public health is continual and that new evidence emerges about this novel coronavirus every day. It is essential to determine what is factual and accurate and to promote information that helps others take needed and appropriate action. News reports have applauded the efforts of Ohio’s Governor DeWine and health director Amy Acton, MD, MPH, for their work in implementing evidence-based social-distancing measures early, while working to educate the public on how to “flatten the curve.”
Social-distancing measures have been in place in Ohio since early March, beginning with the closure of the 2020 Arnold Classic, a fitness expo in Columbus, Ohio, that brings together athletes from more than 80 countries and 60 000 spectators. With the closure of Ohio’s universities shortly thereafter, I found myself undertaking completely virtual work. No one has been left untouched by these widespread mitigation efforts, and while we all adjust to this “new normal,” it is important not to lose sight of the facts and evidence that inform these policies. Each day, I am reminded about the power of information and evidence, and I actively promote its importance. Public health professionals are working tirelessly across the globe to develop and share the necessary evidence that will help us, as a global society, emerge from this pandemic safely.
American Journal of Public Health
Kingsbury, Diana M. (2020). On Being a Former Student Editor in the Midst of a Pandemic. American Journal of Public Health 110(8) 1109. doi: https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305737. Retrieved from https://oaks.kent.edu/covid19ksu/being-former-student-editor-midst-pandemic