Woman outside on busy city sidewalk wearing a mask
HealthAugust 17, 2020

COVID-19: Exploring strategies to protect public health

The United States is in the process of reopening even as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. And even though some states are faring worse than others, it is vitally important for all healthcare workers to take proactive steps to educate and protect the public.

Implementing a variety of public health strategies can help reduce infection rates among community members. Many healthcare organizations already have some of these strategies in place, but there is some discussion over which interventions are truly effective.

Lessons from China

A recent article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice examined different public health strategies used in Shanghai, China. Shanghai is a large, densely populated city where people from all over the world live and work.

Covid-19 prevention and awareness strategies were undertaken at a societal, community, organizational, and individual level. Quarantine enforcement, disease reporting, public health education, and customs support were all steps taken at a societal level.

At the community level, doctors and nurses in local health centers were tasked with sharing health tips and self-protection knowledge with the public. Additionally, these centers worked to increase public awareness by using posters, banners, handouts, phone calls, social media, and electronic displays. It was important that a positive, scientific community atmosphere was established to help ease fears, increase compliance with infection control measures, and control the spread of the disease.

At the organizational level, healthcare workers provided online diagnoses and prescriptions, which were usually delivered to each patients’ home. Online and telephone consultation platforms emerged to answer the public’s questions about Covid-19 and remotely screen for symptoms of the disease. Other organizational changes unrelated to the healthcare industry also took place, such as closing entertainment venues and public libraries.

Individually, each person in Shanghai was encouraged to wear a mask and were educated on the potential signs and symptoms of Covid-19. Doctors advised their patients to social distance, practice good hand hygiene, and quarantine if sick. Also, healthcare workers advised against certain societal norms, such as sharing eating utensils and dishes.

As a result of these efforts, confirmed Covid-19 cases in Shanghai declined dramatically. Clearly, many of the public health strategies officials and healthcare workers used were effective.

Protecting Americans’ health

It’s possible to implement many of the same public health strategies in the United States, but healthcare workers must be aware of the cultural differences between China and America. Unlike people in other countries, Americans place a great deal of importance on autonomy, individualism, and independence. Therefore, it’s important that nurses in public health find solutions that promote these values.

While governmental organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have already begun public awareness campaigns, nurses in community settings can also take steps to help. Nurses are healthcare experts, and most are at ease working with the public. On a local level, nurses and their colleagues can make and set up signs, posters, banners, or even billboards in communities. Other interventions might include:

  • Contacting local homeowners’ associations to send out flyers or handouts to residents
  • Regularly posting information on community networking websites such as nextdoor.com
  • Creating official accounts on various social media platforms to reach members of all ethnic communities
  • Provide support for medical and mental health issues remotely using video conferencing technology or telephones
  • Create informative emails for patients and their families with links to authoritative websites
  • Report any and all cases of Covid-19 in the community so that contact tracing may begin promptly

Unfortunately, there is no playbook for handling a pandemic, and nurses must be part of the process to find ways to better protect the public. But the lessons learned from Shanghai’s public health outreach efforts could be easily applied to other cities, large and small, in the United States.

Lippincott Solutions note: for the latest coverage on Covid-19 by the Lippincott Nursing team, please visit nursingcenter.com/coronavirus.

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