Epi Faculty News

Masks and Much More: Public Health in the Time of COVID-19

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT—"Green is associated with 'go,' 'all clear,' 'nothing to worry about'—but during this pandemic, green could not be further from the truth." Doctoral candidate Chantele Mitchell-Miland (EPI '20) and advisor EPI's Dara Mendez explain why we all still need to be vigilant and practice infection prevention precautions. The authors discuss transmission, testing and tracing, disparate impacts, and the mental health toll, calling for ... 

Coronavirus case increases and risky social behavior worry Newman

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PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER – The uptick may be linked to an increase in young adults not social distancing, so officials suspended the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption at bars and restaurants. The rise in cases suggests people don’t understand what the state’s “green” phase meant, said Anne B. Newman, EPI chair. “I think people took the green to mean that everything was fine and there wasn’t a problem.”  

Mair encourages risk priorities as a surge of coronavirus infections continues in Allegheny County

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90.5 WESA – Social epidemiologist Christina Mair has been thinking for weeks that the county needs to close bars. She acknowledges the economic repercussions but said it might help keep infection rates low enough that kids can return to school in the fall. “It’s the risk-benefit,” she added. “Where are the places where allowing more risk because they're more important?”  

University draws on own experts to guide health and safety decisions

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PITTWIRE - The new Healthcare Advisory Group, headed by Anantha Shekhar, new senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of Pitt Med, will monitor the health status of the campus and ensure compliance with legal regulations. Members, including HPM’s Mark Roberts, EPI’s Anne Newman, EOH’s Sally Wenzel, will develop recommendations for the Pitt community.  

Brent on how brief interventions are tied to lower repeat suicide attempts

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The fewer who attempt suicide, the fewer that die by suicide. These results have "important clinical implications" that should motivate healthcare systems to implement brief interventions, commented epidemiologist David Brent (’87 Hyg) and Nadine M. Melhem. “We need to be prepared with brief suicide preventive interventions that every clinician could deliver face to face or through telemedicine.”  

Health Department Responses

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EPI's Catherine Haggerty and HPM's Wendy Braund lead a conversation about the health department response to COVID-19 at the local and state levels. Haggerty starts the conversation with a discussion of the approaches, impact, and challenges of containment and mitigation efforts at the county level. Braund continues the conversation by comparing and contrasting the response at the state level.   

Fabisiak/Brink study highlights environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution

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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NEWS – EOH's James Fabisiak EPI's LuAnn Brink (IDM '98, EPI '96) estimate that 40 percent of the county's air pollution-related heart disease deaths occur where 20 percent or more individuals live in poverty and/or 30 percent or more are a racial minority. Study data will be used to evaluate the impact of environmental justice on the health of our county communities.  

Lawmakers vote to end Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 emergency, but Gov. Wolf says it’s not over. Burke is concerned.

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PENN LIVE - Epidemiologist Donald Burke said, “The reason our case rates are as low as they are right now is exactly because of these emergency orders and the business closures and mitigation efforts that have followed. To pull back completely from these protections now… would be unwise in the extreme, and bordering on suicidal,” Burke said. “I really feel that strongly about it.”  

Gary-Webb on the new Pittsburgh coalition tackling racial inequities and the pandemic

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WESA - Coalition scientists have pushed to get more coronavirus testing into communities of need. To get that done, EPI’s Tiffany Gary-Webb said they mapped out where Black families live in poverty and lack access to quality medical care, and then created an overlay showing where the federally qualified county health centers were located. That model allowed the council to effectively increase access to testing within that area.  

Contract tracing: Haggerty compares app to human approaches

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT - EPI’s Catherine Haggerty says, “A key strength of active case investigation is that instructions can be immediately shared and explained. Additional continued monitoring of close contacts provides public health officials an ability to quickly identify if symptoms develop among close contacts so that testing and isolation can be rapidly implemented if needed.”  

A Health Equity Response to COVID-19 in Allegheny County

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“When the pandemic first started, there were many of us that were worried that the toll on underserved populations, particularly African Americans where I focus, would bear a disproportionate burden of COVID-19,” said EPI’s Tiffany Gary-Web. "So I started locally asking for data by race and trying to understand if what was going to happen in our area…we’re not having the same access to testing. This is just one example.”  

EPI's Mendez addresses Townhall Tuesday: What Black Pittsburgh Needs to Know About COVID-19

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Assistant professor of epidemiology Dara Mendez joined a panel of community leaders on this week's Townhall Tuesday: What Black Pittsburgh Needs to Know About COVID-19. Mendez talked about contact tracing and the importance of continued testing, particularly with regard to Allegheny County's transition to into the yellow phase and missing racial data. Researchers are working closely with multiple organizations to expand testing, including free a... 

The History and Future of COVID-19

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COVID-19 is one of three novel coronavirus outbreaks in the past 20 years that originated in animals. How is the current outbreak similar and different from the previous ones? What course will COVID-19 take in Pennsylvania?  IDM's  Amy Hartman  puts the current outbreak in perspective with what we know (and don’t know) about SARS-CoV-2. EPI's  Donald Burke  discusses the epidemiological and environmental factors that will shape the likely ph... 

Miljkovic on the obesity puzzle: Why the disease defies efforts to control it

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PITTSBURGH QUARTERLY - “It’s a disease with many risk factors that not many people know about. It’s not just about a person not exercising,” said EPI's Iva Miljkovic. “People can have a normal BMI, but they have a lot of fat where it’s not supposed to be and we don’t do anything about it in clinical practice. When you go to the doctor ... no one measures your waist. That would be the most simple way to tell if someone was at high risk.”  

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