Washington University in St. Louis – Brown School Public Health Programs

St. Louis, MO

When COVID-19 first emerged as a dire threat, the Washington University in St. Louis Brown School Public Health Programs’ Dr. Jason Purnell, associate professor and the director of Health Equity Works, a research-based initiative housed in the Brown School, led a response team of over 40 St. Louis-area nonprofits, social service agencies and government programs to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. New research from Brown School faculty provided guidance to local policymakers on how they might contain the spread of the virus that causes COVID until vaccination ramped up to levels high enough to provide widespread protection.  

In addition, Dr. Matthew Kreuter, the Kahn Family Professor of Public Health, received a one-year $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities. Funding was supported by the American Rescue Plan. To help address the global impacts on social, economic and public health, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy awarded $250,000 in seed grants to kick-start research projects led by Washington University faculty members and their international collaborators.  

Under the leadership of Dr. Lora Iannotti, professor and institute faculty scholar, and Sherlie Jean-Louis Dulience in Haiti, several faculty members, students and staff from Washington University designed and co-instructed public health courses with Haitian counterparts. Research collaborations have also emerged in public health nutrition, environmental sustainability, air quality and engineering, enteric disease, child development and radiology.  

Associate Dean for External Affairs Gary Parker mentions, “The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges that spanned the boundaries of public health, social needs and communication while magnifying already-existing health disparities in St. Louis and across the nation.” The Brown School-based Health Communication Research Laboratory has taken quick action on all those fronts, partnering with local organizations to secure millions of dollars in federal grants to address immediate issues like vaccination and community impact, while conducting longer-term research that can make a difference when the next pandemic hits.  

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Read the accounts of other public health institutions on their work around the COVID-19 pandemic.