Statement from the National Association of County and City Health Officials
July 15, 2020
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), on behalf of the nearly 3,000 local health departments across the country, is deeply concerned with any move to fragment COVID-19 related data collection, which could add further complications to our country’s response to COVID-19. Accurate, timely data are key to informing the daily activities of our members and response efforts specific to their communities. Separation of healthcare and public health data may make it more difficult to get an accurate picture for local health departments to act upon, adding one more complication to the already challenging pandemic response.
For years, our country has planned for pandemic response. While those preparation activities have not perfectly mapped to the realities of COVID-19, it is critical that we identify issues, build on, and improve existing systems that have been exercised and honed over time, instead of shifting midcourse while in the crisis to a wholly different, new, and untested system and process for submitting data. Any such change must be done in careful consultation with public health leaders at the local, state, and federal level in a transparent and deliberative manner to address possible unintended consequences.
While setting up a data workaround reporting structure outside the CDC can create real disruption for a coordinated response across the entire health system, it also may lead to public distrust over the numbers. Any politicization—real or perceived—of the data creates yet another hurdle towards full cooperation in slowing and stopping the spread. It is critical that we do all we can to instill trust in public health expertise and guidance at all levels, from local health departments up through the governmental public health system to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, this move may undermine it. We cannot further diminish the necessary role of public health in this pandemic response, and they must always inform changes like this data reporting shift.
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The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org