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Emory, state of Georgia collaborate on COVID-19 response

Rollins School of Public Health and the state of Georgia will embark on a new partnership to increase public health resources to combat the COVID-19 crisis, including planning, response and research.

Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health will embark on a new partnership with the state of Georgia in increasing its public health resources to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

The Emory COVID-19 Response Collaborative (ECRC), established within Rollins, will provide ongoing, flexible and collaborative support to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) in four major areas:

  • Planning coordination
  • Outbreak response and evaluation
  • Training and deployment of public health professionals throughout the state
  • Surveillance, research and monitoring

“As Georgia continues to re-open commerce, travel and social engagement, ensuring that the citizens of Georgia are kept safe from disease and death is a public/private responsibility,” says Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “To be successful, there must be ample and accessible COVID-19 testing, extraordinary community engagement and an ability to trace contacts of new COVID-19 cases in order to forestall resurgent outbreaks. Expanding academic partnerships among Georgia’s public health system, Rollins and other Georgia-based schools of public health will benefit us now and in the future.”

“Achieving adequate COVID-19 testing, community participation and contact tracing will require unprecedented investments in technologies, people power and communications campaigns,” says James W. Curran, MD, MPH, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health. “We are eager to support the state of Georgia in this comprehensive public health initiative to help ensure the health and safety of all Georgians.”

The ECRC will be led by Allison Chamberlain, PhD, current director of Rollins’ Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research (CPHPR), which has a nearly 20-year history of managing programs and research that focus on helping communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from infectious disease, terrorism and other public health threats. 

The ECRC’s four focus areas will include:

  • Participating in state strategic and program planning and identifying areas for immediate focus for assistance from faculty, alumni and students. This effort will be led by Chamberlain.
  • Identifying and supporting RSPH faculty, students and staff to work in the field alongside practice partners to investigate and stem COVID-19 outbreaks as they arise throughout Georgia.
  • Preparing and placing public health professionals throughout Georgia through creation of the Rollins COVID-19 Epidemiology Fellows Program. Conceived as a way to accelerate the hiring of additional epidemiologists, the inaugural cohort will aim to place one fellow in each of Georgia’s 18 health districts, with additional fellows assigned at DPH, the ECRC or in districts with unique needs or larger populations.
  • Identifying key areas where rapid implementation, evaluation and research are needed and provide support through projects or other sources of funding. This includes conducting the nation’s first randomized statewide COVID-19 survey, modeled after an NIH-approved national survey, of 1,200 households across Georgia to understand the prevalence of COVID-19. The study will be directed by RSPH faculty members Patrick Sullivan and Aaron Siegler, two of the nation’s most renowned HIV and survey researchers.

The ECRC will launch with support from a gift of $7.8 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

“Our mission is to support activities that put the talented academic community at Rollins in the service of our public health partners during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Chamberlain. “We hope our work will help solidify and expand academic-public health partnerships among Georgia’s public health system, the RSPH and other Georgia-based schools of public health that will endure well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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