Your Contact Tracing Workforce Can Drive Equity and Mitigate Infectious Disease Risks | Episode 57

Your Contact Tracing Workforce Can Drive Equity and Mitigate Infectious Disease Risks | Episode 57

Contact tracing is an important public health tool for containing the spread of disease, including COVID-19. But contact tracers are effective only if they can persuade people to answer questions about recent whereabouts and who else might have been exposed. Contact tracers are more likely to be successful in their outreach if they and the people they are contacting have similar backgrounds. Currently, no one collects and reports information on the composition of the COVID-19 workforce in communities across the country, making it difficult to know whether the workforce could be more effective with focused recruitment strategies. However, a partnership between Mathematica and the Public Health Foundation sheds some light on who is engaged in contact tracing during the pandemic and how their backgrounds compare with the backgrounds of people in their local communities.

On this episode of On the Evidence, guests Ilya Plotkin and Jia Pu discuss an interactive dashboard that uses a large and unique national data set to visualize demographic data of COVID-19 contact tracing trainees and the communities they serve.

• Plotkin is the director of the TRAIN Learning Network, a service of the Public Health Foundation that provides a clearinghouse of learning opportunities, including free training on contact tracing, for health professionals. Although it is not the only source of training on contact tracing, it is one of the largest. As of early April 2021, more than 40,000 people participated in its training on COVID-19 contact tracing.

• Pu is a health researcher at Mathematica who led the development of the dashboard based on data from the TRAIN Learning Network and other sources.

During the podcast, Plotkin and Pu share how their personal backgrounds as part of Russian and Chinese immigrant communities in the U.S. motivated them to develop a resource for culturally sensitive, equitable, and effective contact tracing during the pandemic. They discuss potential applications of the dashboard and important limitations of the data. They also explain why contact tracing, as a tool for controlling and preventing disease spread, will only grow in importance as more people are vaccinated, infections decline, and more parts of the economy, such as schools and offices, reopen.

Find a transcript of the conversation here:

Read a blog post by Ilya and Jia that provides further context about the COVID-19 contact tracing workforce dashboard:

Explore the COVID-19 contact tracing workforce dashboard:

Email [email protected] if you would like your information about the contact tracing workforce to be included in the dashboard.


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