With state money, OU’s COVID-19 support program to expand reach and focus

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A University of Oregon program designed to contact trace COVID-19 cases and support those in isolation is being expanded to a statewide program, hoping to reinvigorate public health systems and create a pipeline for students in public health-related fields.

The Corona Corps, developed in 2020 by the OU’s Center for Global Health and University Health Services, began as a team of 16 people, mostly OU students, who worked on COVID-19 case management. and contact tracing.

While many public health entities halted contact tracing when they had to focus on vaccinations and managing ongoing outbreaks, Corona Corps followed suit in September and halted contact tracing.

Now the 40-person team is solely focused on helping students who test positive access resources such as food, housing, healthcare, financial aid, mental health support and university accommodation.

The program will have statewide reach after $1 million in new funding from the Oregon Health Authority, UO announced last week. It will be renamed Oregon Public Health Corps.

Corona Corps has developed an infrastructure to include students

UO’s Angela Long and Jeff Measelle are co-directors of Corona Corps and driving this expansion. Long is the Director of Public Health Practice at University Health Services. Measelle is a professor of psychology and director of UO’s Center for Global Health, “which is as close to public health as we are at the university academically,” he said.

The new statewide program will evolve from addressing COVID-19 concerns to expanding its reach to other public health issues.

“We’re probably going to take it in a bunch of different directions,” Measelle said. “We have developed so many great training procedures, and we have developed this infrastructure that allows students to play a central role in the management of communicable diseases, (so) we will be looking for opportunities throughout the state where we can continue to play that kind of role.”

Students will receive academic training to contribute to communicable disease containment, health education campaigns, and mental health support following public health issues such as wildfires. They will work through internships and internships tailored to the needs of each community.

Mental health will be an important area of ​​focus, Measelle said, as the pandemic has worsened anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, and communities need help addressing them. They could also help public health with other communicable diseases, should they arise, Long said.

Review of the week: Lane County COVID cases drop 7.3%; Oregon cases drop 13.5%

Public health modernization addresses another objective

OHA and OU have worked closely throughout the pandemic, along with other colleges and universities in the state. The OHA saw how quickly the OU program was able to take off and asked it to expand.

The state has also tasked program participants to help modernize public health and build a pipeline into the profession.

“The state has had funds for modernization for several years now, and they’re hanging around,” Long said. “And it’s not a lot of dollars, but they’ve been focused on knowing that public health needs to be reinvigorated. And the pandemic has really emphasized that.

“One of the biggest pillars of this modernization is reaching underserved populations.”

Access to underserved populations will be a primary focus of Oregon’s new public health body. It will also hopefully serve as a pipeline for students in the public health industry or other related fields.

“We have these amazing, capable students who are very well trained and know what they’re doing, and we want to make this resource available across the state and to other communities that need support,” Long said. “They’re learning themselves – it helps them and their careers to help others, so we’re really excited about that.”

Corps Training Students for the Future in Public Health

Since Corona Corps began in July 2020, the program has seen over 180 students come to the aid, with many different majors and academic orientations. Some even decided to pursue public health after being part of the program, Long and Measelle said.

“The concept is that we can provide education, not just these job opportunities, through the University of Oregon so that students can become the future public health workers,” Long said. “This is a pipeline that we believe hasn’t existed before, and so this kind of pipeline (and) focus on underserved populations is really going to, we believe, help the state start to meet its Goals.”

Because the foundation was laid with OU students, they will always have a chance to be part of the program, but the hope is that it can expand to include other students and be replicated in other places. other Oregon universities and community colleges.

“It’s not a new concept, is it? AmeriCorps, Teach for America, these types of working corps, pre-professional ideas, these have been released and we as a country, We used them. The Peace Corps is actually maybe one of the first instantiations of that,” Measelle said.

“But part of our hope is that this is this transition time for a lot of people who may not have a career in public health, but who are still really passionate about giving back to their community. .”

For more information on Corona Corps, visit coronavirus.uoregon.edu/corona-corps

Contact journalist Jordyn Brown at [email protected] or 541-246-4264, and follow her on Twitter @thejordynbrown and Instagram @registerguard. Support local journalism, subscribe to The Register-Guard.

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