Social Impact Internships Summer 2020: Ayesha Ng (’21)
A Summer with the CDC Foundation Regional Advisors Health Equity Strike Team
This summer, I am working with the CDC Foundation Regional Advisors Health Equity Strike Team in the response to COVID-19. Analyzing regional dashboards of state and local health departments, I examine what data is publicly available about COVID-19, what is being done to address disparities, and how the narrative tied to health equity can be modified in public health messages. I was drawn to this internship because I believe that it is a highly pressing need during this time to identify underlying factors that are potentially contributing to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 mortality and morbidity on various vulnerable populations. These efforts are key to effectively implement targeted testing, contact tracing, resources, and interventions towards these communities.
As COVID-19 mortality rates continue to rise, increasing preliminary data has demonstrated that racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted by the disease. However, publicly available demographic data remains inconsistent with a lack of uniformity in data collection across states. Efforts to advance health equity are hindered by under-reporting or misreporting on data on racial and ethnic minorities, socioeconomic status, underlying comorbidities, occupational exposure, access to health insurance and other social factors that contribute to vulnerability.
Our initiative aims to aggregate COVID-19 data by demographic characteristics, county level demographics, and health system profiles in order to develop standardized, data-based guidelines to modify regional dashboards and practices. These changes incorporate geographic, racial and socio-economic disparities, and social determinants of health into public-facing data as they relate to COVID-19 health outcomes. Ultimately, we strive to build capacity within state and local jurisdictions to identify and assess disparate outcomes of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations and advance new mitigation strategies, resource allocation and management, testing, and contact tracing. These efforts focus on harnessing data to inform health policy, determining interventions for more equitable outcomes, and communicating with community leaders to educate about the social determinants of health and their disparate impact on the communities they serve.
As I aim to become a future physician, I am highly interested in health equity work and exploring disease beyond patient physiology to investigate the broader social determinants of health. Throughout this internship, I have found the work incredibly meaningful and have deepened my understanding of the role of public health policy and the impact of public health practice at the federal and jurisdictional levels.
Looking to fulfill your fall Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO)? Check out PKG Social Impact Internships page to learn more about where to find opportunities and how to apply!
Like seeing stories like this one? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest PKG stories and student reflections!