As cities across the country brace for new COVID-19 variants, Nashville health leaders are releasing a new, comprehensive review of lessons learned from the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far. Nashville is the first city in the nation to conduct an in-depth analysis of its COVID-19 response.
NashvilleHealth, in partnership with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Health Care Council, and Meharry Medical College Center for the Study of the Social Determinants of Health consulted Washington D.C.-based research firm Avalere Health to conduct the independent analysis.
“This deeply researched, collaborative project is a prime example of our healthcare, nonprofit, business, government, and stakeholder communities responsibly coming together to dramatically improve the health and well being of all Nashvillians, for now and the future,” said Bill Frist, M.D., former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and founder and chairman of NashvilleHealth. “The report’s far-reaching, practical recommendations provide an indispensable roadmap to a safer and better prepared future for the next crisis.”
Avalere Health conducted a series of wide-ranging interviews with key community leaders and stakeholders to understand Nashville’s response and then presented these findings in a detailed report ‘Strategies for Future Preparedness: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 in Nashville’ that makes specific recommendations to inform and better prepare for future health emergencies.
The comprehensive report explores five key domains, including the area’s pandemic infrastructure preparedness, economic response, policy response, public health and healthcare response, and approach to vaccine rollout.
In its findings, the report commends Nashville’s science-driven approach, crisis communication infrastructure, and public-private partnerships, and encourages the city to continue to leverage these and other assets going forward.
The report then offers 28 short, medium, and long-term recommendations and action items to be considered by hospitals, community-based organizations (CBOs), Metro government, researchers, non-profits, and business leaders in Nashville for any future public health emergency.
Among the issues and recommendations highlighted:
- Emphasize and prioritize regular investments in our public health infrastructure and crisis readiness.
- Elevate supports for Nashville’s most vulnerable populations based on unique needs.
- Align protocols and best practices across Nashville’s thriving business and tourism community.
- Elevate leaders of Nashville’s minority faith communities as key influencers and trusted representatives for information sharing and emergency response.
- Develop improved and standardized data sharing among health providers for better care coordination and outcomes.
- Create easy-to-use and mobile-friendly online portals and dashboards for residents and businesses to use for testing, vaccinations, and applying for economic relief, as well as following progress on pandemic preparedness metrics.
Consistent with the rest of the country, the report finds Nashville’s most vulnerable disproportionately felt the negative impacts of COVID-19, both physically and economically.
“This report is critical to examining Nashville’s response to one of the largest public health challenges in the history of our nation. COVID-19 plagued our communities, and we will continue to face the repercussions for years to come,” said Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, president/CEO of Meharry Medical College. “This real-time review assesses ways to better prepare and execute in the event of a future health emergency. It shows us how we can work together to make systemic changes to create a more equitable and healthier Nashville.”
The report recommends the healthcare industry, CBOs, government, and academia should continue to work together to identify communities where populations are at the greatest risk of having negative impacts of COVID-19, and conduct assessments to better understand residents’ perspectives on needed services, health access points, and resources that are currently lacking in their communities.
The report also found that ensuring trusted messengers are armed with consistent, culturally-sensitive messaging is critical to better reach and inform the diversity of audiences across the city with the information they need.
The effort was led by a steering committee, made up of more than 20 diverse leaders from the areas of government, business, faith, community, and health, which provided a guiding voice throughout the project, offered critical feedback, community connectivity, and thought leadership.
“We will be more ready because we took this opportunity to thoughtfully and collectively review our efforts,” said Steering Committee Chairman and former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell. “Our insights will position us to support our friends and neighbors all across the city in new and innovative ways because we will have better knowledge and understanding in real time.”
In conducting this report in real time, Nashville has established a precedent for collaborative, comprehensive self-examination that allows for immediate and long-term improved response to current and future challenges. It is expected that this report and recommendations will serve as a model for other cities and communities across the country.