Milken Institute SPH Researchers to Examine Missouri’s COVID-19 Response

Researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) will examine the effectiveness of Missouri’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is funded by an $860,000 contract by Missouri Foundation for Health.

Led by Marsha Regenstein, PhD, a professor of health policy and management at Milken Institute SPH, the research project will examine Missouri’s COVID-19 response within geographic regions of the state and compare the statewide response to other states. The research team looks to understand how public health systems in Missouri are meeting the needs of residents across the state, including those who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to social, economic, and health inequities related to racial and ethnic disparities. 

The researchers will conduct qualitative interviews with key public health stakeholders, community leaders and frontline workers; analyze state and local public health data to understand aspects of the pandemic response like testing and contact tracing; and examine collaborative efforts between public health agencies, health care systems and community organizations. Case studies will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s public health system, including how it responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers hope that the project’s findings will lead to recommendations on how Missouri can strengthen its response to future epidemics and other public health threats.

“The widespread nature of COVID-19 and its impacts on all Missourians – from those living in small, rural towns to residents of large, urban areas – affords an important opportunity for learning, improvement, and preparation for future public health crises,” Regenstein said. “We hope to deliver valuable and relevant information to help the state address future public health challenges.”

The project will rely on a collaborative approach. The study team will work with Missouri Foundation for Health throughout the project to report findings back to state and local public health stakeholders in Missouri in order to provide them with timely information and to inform the study’s approach.

“Evidence is mounting that an array of social and economic inequities has caused COVID-19 to spread faster and with deadlier consequences in communities of color,” said Katherine Fritz, vice president of learning and research at MFH. “Missouri Foundation for Health is dedicated to ensuring this research contributes toward a public health system that can better serve those impacted by discrimination and exclusion."

Missouri Foundation for Health is a resource for the region, working with communities and nonprofits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health. As a catalyst for change, the Foundation improves the health of Missourians through partnership, experience, knowledge, and funding.

Members of the research team also include Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Anne Markus, PhD, JD, MHS, and Dora Hughes, MD, MPH, all in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Milken Institute SPH.