In recognition of its supporting efforts in Arkansas’ response to COVID-19, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has received national recognition.
The Network Member Impact Award from the National Network of Public Health Institutes was presented to ACHI on May 18, during the 2022 NNPHI Annual Conference in New Orleans. Jennifer Wessel, ACHI senior policy analyst, accepted the award on behalf of ACHI.
In its blog, NNPHI stated that it was honoring ACHI for, “tremendous efforts to support local data, information translation and critical partnership news in the COVID-19 response in Arkansas.”
“We at ACHI are honored to receive this recognition,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, ACHI president and CEO. “I thank NNPHI for this award, and I thank every member of our team for working tirelessly to translate COVID-19 data into meaningful information that informed local decision-makers, from city and school leaders to the general public. I believe our efforts, together with those of our many partners, demonstrated how crucial the collection, analysis and distribution of public health data are in informing responses to public health crises – not just this one, but those to come as well.”
ACHI started working with the Arkansas Department of Health beginning early in the pandemic, to analyze and provide local-level COVID-19 data on the ACHI website. In working with several other partner organizations, especially the Arkansas Municipal League, ACHI helped interpret the data and provide guidance to local leaders as they navigated the pandemic and decided when to implement measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In March, ACHI suspended its reporting of local-level data because low testing rates and the prevalence of unreported at-home testing had begun to undermine the data’s reliability. Currently, ACHI continues to make some COVID-19 data, including daily statewide counts of deaths and hospitalizations, available on the COVID-19 in Arkansas webpage.
Among those who relied on ACHI’s reporting of COVID-19 were several school districts, that used this data in deciding when to implement mask requirements. Collaborative researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADH and ACHI relied on this data to study the protective effects of school mask policies. In March, a study published by the CDC, showed that Arkansas school districts that had universal mask requirements had a 23 percent lower average rate of COVID-19 cases among students and staff members compared to the districts that did not have mask requirements.
The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society published a ACHI-lead study that identified health conditions associated with elevated risk for severe outcomes among COVID-19 patients, providing numerous virtual and in-person presentations to inform decision-makers in communities around the state – keeping the public informed about COVID-19 through blog posts, news releases, media interviews and guest columns.
Photo: Jennifer Wessel, senior policy analyst for the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, accepts the Network Member Impact Award at the National Network of Public Health Institutes’ annual conference in New Orleans on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of ACHI.