CHHS Chair takes part in National Health Event

Dr. Kamiar Alaei, Chair of Health Science, recently attended a virtual workshop event entitled “Reimagining a 21st Century Public Health System.” The California Council of Science and Technology held the event, which brought experts in their field from around the country, to discuss lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and the future of public health in California. Dr. Alaei was the sole representative of all the CSUs.

Dr. Alaei, who recently received a $10 million grant to advance workforce development in public health information technology, says technology was a big talking point at the workshop.

“In relation to public health, the point is how we can bring together different sectors and disciplines to facilitate innovative ideas and new technologies.”

From biosurveillance, to contact tracing, Alaei shared that a key message of the conference was that, though technology is still evolving, cooperation between private and public sectors will be essential to solve today’s health issues.

“I think the key message I was advocating for is that we have to use a hybrid approach of centralized and decentralized methods,” Alaei says of the ways discussed to handle COVID-19 and other future challenges.

Dr. Alaei and his fellow health professionals conferred on which centralized approaches may be called for moving forward. For example, giving authority to centralized government to ensure health services are available and affordable to everyone. On the other hand, decentralized responses from individual states and local authorities could be useful for contact tracing and testing, since there tends to be information advantage over centralized authorities when it comes to public health intervention in the local community.

Combatting “disinformation,” Alaei says, was another topic at the forum. “As you know, we have 66 percent of the population that are fully vaccinated. We need to figure out how we can use trustable sources and engage with the community to find out why a third of the population hasn’t been fully vaccinated.”

Part of that, according to Dr. Alaei, is about bringing health professionals together to depoliticize non-political health issues when it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health challenges that arise in the future.

Those challenges, Dr. Alaei relays, were also discussed in the context of the health disparities facing minorities. “A stronger culturally sensitive approach integrated at both the public and private levels is needed to reduce disparities.”

Dr. Alaei, advocating from the university level, discussed with his fellow conference leaders about how to broaden access to health training.    

Thanks to Alaei’s recent grant, and in collaboration with the Department of Healthcare Administration and other institutions, Health Science at Long Beach State will recruit, train, and place 700 minority students in California’s public health workforce. It will also provide new training and specialized degrees.

“I think a key message moving forward is that it’s essential to bring different disciplines to work together and use COVID-19 as a proxy to forge innovative ideas and new technology, so that we will be prepared for whatever faces us in the future relating to public health.”