As we enter our sixth month of a drastically different New Jersey during the COVID-19 crisis, our members, government officials, and the Quality Institute all face similar questions:
- What happens to the important public health work moving forward before the pandemic?
- How do we maintain strong partnerships in the fight for safe, equitable, and affordable health care if we can only communicate through screens and masks?
The answer, in our experience at the Quality Institute, has been surprisingly simple:
We adapt; we partner; we push on.
Equity, affordability and accessibility have taken on greater urgency over the past few months. Addressing rising health care costs, gaps in coverage, social determinates of health, and healthy behaviors is more urgent now than ever. The hurdles to provide and access safe essential health and social services and the impact of this crisis on our economy only exacerbate the cracks in our health system that we have long been committed to fixing. Addressing rising health care costs, gaps in coverage, social determinates of health, and healthy behaviors across our state cannot stop or even slow down.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, many of us — myself included — feared critical projects would not progress as we replaced in-person gatherings with virtual calls. But as our staff continues to convene our members, communities, and policy makers on key issues, we have found unexpected silver linings.
Members from all parts of the state and the country have seamlessly joined video calls when distance might have previously hindered their participation. Bonds have strengthened as small talk before meetings now includes laughing toddlers in the background, feline friends walking across keyboards — and as our greetings are filled with sincere well wishes for each other’s families.
Despite the challenges, we continue to maintain momentum on health policy, education, and community health initiatives that are key to the wellbeing of our state while we also support our health care systems and front-line workers as they fight this virus, our work looks very different than it did at the start of year. But our impact has not diminished. In fact, we are seeing folks more committed and motivated than ever.
For instance, our prior work on improving the quality and safety of Maternal Child Health led us to convene a work group for the New Jersey Department of Health to create Recommendations for Perinatal Care During COVID-19. And our Conversation of Your Life (COYL) Task Forces across the state stepped up to meet the great need for educating families on having advance care planning conversations — pivoting from events in libraries and senior centers to virtual programming practically overnight; view our COYL resources here. We’ve also released new resources to support patients and providers access necessary routine health care services, such as our New Jersey Reproductive Health Access Project (NJ-RHAP) toolkit.
Even as our state begins to reopen slowly and safely, we know the crisis and its effect on New Jersey is far from behind us. Here at the Quality Institute, we will continue to prioritize public health to ensure we not only recover, but that we bounce back stronger, smarter, and better equipped than ever for the continued challenges ahead.