Cornell And NYS Public Health Preparedness Training Extends Beyond COVID-19

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — New York launched its first public health training course this month in partnership with Cornell University.*

The Citizen Public Health Leader Training Program aims to prepare residents to address COVID-19, public health emergencies and future pandemics.

The state-run vaccination site at a Binghamton University’s Johnson City storage facility. (Provided by Binghamton University)

Enrollment in the Cornell-designed course opened on May 5 and is free to all New Yorkers. New sessions start weekly, but it was designed so residents could complete it at their own pace.

Gen Meredith, Associate Director of the public health master’s program at Cornell, said she designed the course to be accessible to residents of any background. In it, clinical terms regarding COVID-19 and public were broken down.

That way, Meredith said, participants could help answer questions about the virus and vaccination from their friends and neighbors.

“We try to provide information from physicians and from communications experts to give people words, or terms, or approaches that they may use to help somebody overcome some of that hesitancy related to vaccination,” Meredith explained.

Increasing vaccination rates is a goal for health officials across the state. 40 percent of adults in New York have not yet been vaccinated.

The course, however, goes beyond the pandemic. Its second unit looks at non-communicable diseases, like heart disease. Meredith said it gives residents tools to address public health issues in their communities, spanning from opioid use disorders and maternal health to chronic illness and health disparities.

“We recognize that each community might have different public health priority areas, each county might have different public health priority areas,” Meredith said. “Public health is this thing we do together.”

The course then moves to all the ways public health is intertwined with and influenced by other factors.

“It’s the communities and the connectedness that we have within those communities. It’s the jobs that we have access to,” Meredith said. “It’s the type of income we have. It’s the homes and the neighborhoods we live in. It’s being able to have security and access to food and a safe place to sleep.”

The training is not just for people in the medical field, and neither is public health. Public health also encompasses harm reduction, caring for the climate and improving conditions in neighborhoods so people can be healthy.

Meredith said she hopes the course helps participants see how they already contribute to public health and how they can be leaders for others.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wanted at least 100,000 New Yorkers to take the course to become citizen public health leaders.

New York will also launch a public health leader fellowship later this year, which will expand on the training course and place one fellow in each county to implement strategies on the ground.

*Cornell University is a WSKG underwriter.