In March 2020, Governor Baker’s Office requested the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) work with schools and programs of public health to assist local public health departments in Massachusetts who have been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since that time, the Academic Health Department collaborative has established the Academic Public Health Volunteer Corps, mobilizing hundreds of students and alumni to support the needs of cities and towns across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Much of this effort has been coordinated by student leaders, working together across the many schools and programs of public health.
Harvard Chan is one of the co-leads in this statewide effort, through the field education and practice office.
Priority Work Areas for Student Volunteers
As of October 2020, the two critical needs of the 351 local boards of health in Massachusetts are:
- Communications to respond to COVID-19 questions, including phone banking, social media, and other health communications
- Administrative support, including monitoring/posting social media, translating/interpreting information into multiple languages
One of the early efforts of the APHVC was contact tracing and surveillance. Contact tracing is no longer being done by APHVC volunteers and is handled by the Community Tracing Collaborative. We are very proud of our volunteers in this effort during the surge of COVID-19. The APHVC and our volunteers were the first to stand up an organized effort to support this need in Massachusetts, supported by Harvard Catalyst resources.
What does the work entail?
You will need to commit to a certain amount of time and training, and will be assigned to a local board of health. The APHVC will facilitate an introduction to your point person in the local board of health (LBOH), and you will also have a team lead from the APHVC to help you onboard and provide support in your new role.
It is important that you as a volunteer feel supported in this new and important work, not only at the beginning when everything is very new, but also as you move forward, so that you can do good work, but also sustain yourself and practice self-care. At the same time, the AHD Collaborative wants to make sure that the “warm handoff” to your LBOH point person goes well and that volunteers are sensitive to the overwhelming demands in these towns.
Start-up Training for New Volunteers
Many students have not worked in local public health in Massachusetts, and so developing some common ground for all volunteers is important.
New volunteers should complete these two online trainings before getting started:
Dealing with Stress in Disasters (1.5 hr)
About the Academic Health Department (AHD) Collaborative
The COVID-19 Massachusetts Academic Health Department (AHD) Collaborative is a group of 13 schools and programs of public health, which support the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in responding to the COVID-19 needs of local boards of health.
Boston University School of Public Health
Bridgewater State University
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Holyoke Community College, CHW Program
MCPHS University (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences)
Northern Essex Community College, Associates in Public Health & CHW Certification Programs
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
University of Massachusetts Medical School