NEW LEXINGTON — The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is collaborating with several public health professional associations and academic institutions to support Ohio’s local health jurisdictions as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This purpose of this support structure, known as the Public Health Assist Team initiative, is to:

• Provide volunteer COVID-19 response support to Ohio’s local public health agencies and their community partners

• Provide applied experience to students enrolled in select Ohio academic institutions, particularly those in public health, medical, and related programs

This work will focus on several key areas that have been identified as priority needs, with the possibility of expanding in the future. Key information about this effort is included below. Please consider becoming a part of this volunteer effort by responding to this brief registration survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHAssistTeams

Although, the survey will remain open indefinitely, please respond early so that assignments can begin to be made. Thank you for your support.

What is a Public Health Assist Team?

A Public Health Assist Team is typically a group of three to five professionals (present and retired), students, and/or faculty who are assigned to assist a local health jurisdiction with their response to COVID-19.

What are the priority topic areas?

Priority areas where assistance is needed have been identified by members of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners:

• Medical/public health: patient follow up; contact tracking

• Medical/public health: responding to calls requiring COVID-19 or medical information

• Communications: assisting local jurisdictions to develop messages for communities and local media

• Communications: developing/tailoring messages for social media

These priority areas may expand in the future.

What is my role?

All volunteers will work together with their Assist Team members to address the priority area that the assigned health department has selected. Team members are expected to be professional, reliable, ethical and contribute their best thinking and work. A public health professional or faculty member will be identified as Assist Team Lead and will be the main contact with the Ohio Department of Health or the academic institution coordinator. That leader will provide general team coordination and provide mentorship to the student team members.

I am a student, will I receive academic credit for this work?

Some academic institutions will be offering academic credit for participation in this program. Additional work and assignments may be required for students receiving academic credit. Check with your institution’s program and/or faculty to see if this applies to you.

How will I know I have been assigned to a team?

When requests for support come in, teams will be assembled based on type of assistance needed and geographic proximity. Every effort will be made to pair teams that are located within or nearby the jurisdiction being served. Assigned team members will be notified by either the Ohio Department of Health or the academic representative.

Will I have contact with patients who have been diagnosed with or have known exposure to CODIV-19?

No. Assignments are non-clinical. Most assignments will be conducted remotely. There may be some instances where a department requests on site assistance, however this will not be to clinical locations.

Who is behind this initiative?

ODH has received several inquiries from individuals and groups who wanted to be involved in the COVID-19 response — particularly those who wanted to help with pandemic response and to provide students with real public health experience. ODH is serving an overall coordination role and is working closely with several of Ohio’s academic institutions and public health professional associations. We know of several similar initiatives that are also occurring in Ohio and are compiling a list so that these opportunities can be tracked and serve as resources to one another.

I have more questions. Who should I reach out to?

If you have questions, please contact Joanne Pearsol, Deputy Director, Ohio Department of Health at local.support@odh.ohio.gov or 614-728-0301.

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