Public Health Collaborative Addresses COVID Response
Two years into the pandemic, the Milwaukee COVID response has changed in structure, but remains a robust and collaborative effort. After the sunset of the Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Centers (UEOC), in July 2021, a new Milwaukee County Public Health Collaborative (PHC) COVID response infrastructure was launched. The PHC is led by the eleven municipal health departments, in collaboration with Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, health care and community organizations. Concurrently, COVID prevention, intervention, access and communications work continues across health systems and health centers through numerous sector-specific workgroups.
“There is a long history of collaboration on public health issues among the Southeastern Wisconsin health departments,” said Jackie Ove, Health Officer for South Milwaukee and Saint Francis and PHC Co-Chair. “The formation of the PHC in 2021 provided a forum for multi-sector coordination and collaboration in addressing public health issues in Milwaukee County – including COVID.”
Into 2022, the PHC will continue its shared COVID work of addressing data management, testing, vaccination, public education and access to care, with a special focus on vulnerable populations.
Katie Lepak, MS, serves as the PHC COVID Response Project Officer, facilitating information exchange and the advancement of prevention strategies across health care and other sectors. Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor, Director of Medical Services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management and Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, continues to be instrumental in the COVID response efforts providing leadership to community data reporting and analysis, clinical and strategic guidance, and the promotion of best practices to address health equity across the county.
“During the Omicron surge, the PHC was able to support increased access to COVID testing, including the implementation and expansion of community testing sites and the distribution of masks and rapid antigen tests among partners,” said Kirsten Johnson, Health Commissioner for the Milwaukee Health Department and PHC Co-Chair. “This intra- and inter-sector collaboration was essential for the timely exchange of information as health care partners experienced significant inpatient and workforce capacity challenges.”