Reimagining public health infrastructure in the 21st century




By Susan J. Blumenthal and David Sun Kong

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in the opportunity for a once in a generation reimagining of America’s public health infrastructure. To meet this opportunity, a new multidisciplinary academic field of public health technology should be established to integrate diverse expertise in public health, technology, engineering, data analytics, and design to help build the products, programs, and systems necessary to modernize the nation’s public health infrastructure and ready it for 21st-century challenges and opportunities.

The pandemic exposed significant deficiencies in early warning systems of disease surveillance and real-time data collection, with notable gaps in the gathering of racial and ethnic information, testing, contact tracing, antiviral and vaccine availability, and new-device development, as well as the sustainability of the supply chain for producing and distributing medical equipment and resources. Furthermore, there were many coordination challenges between federal and state agencies and other key stakeholders in pandemic response, and our public health communication system faced enormous challenges addressing an infodemic of misinformation surrounding the pandemic.

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