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Stories of Care Podcast February 13, 2023

4 Opportunities for Outbreak-Response Improvement Highlighted by the Mpox (formerly Monkeypox) Outbreak

The 2022 outbreak of mpox virus in the United States highlighted opportunities for improvement in the U.S. healthcare system. The American Medical Association recently spoke with Dr. Magda Houlberg from Howard Brown Health in Chicago, IL about the outbreak and her thoughts on issues it highlighted.

  1. The US public health system made improvements during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were incorporated into the mpox response, but challenges remain.

    The mantra of diagnose, treat and vaccinate is burned into our brains, but the slow rollout of mpox tests, medications and vaccinations brought out similar frustrations to COVID-19.

  2. Infections like mpox and COVID-19 require innovative infection prevention and control (IPC) practices.

    To keep patients and healthcare personnel safe, clinics relied on both established and new IPC practices. These included prescreening patients by phone about contacts and symptoms, moving patients through lobbies quickly or utilizing alternate entrances, and sometimes even meeting patients in their homes for evaluation and treatment.

  3. Recognizing our limits and signs of burnout is important to maintain a thriving health care workforce.

    Regional partnerships among public health systems, larger healthcare organizations, and community groups can help reduce the need to “reinvent the wheel.” Working with other organizations can streamline messaging and prevent duplication, saving time and improving patient and provider satisfaction. Check in with fellow healthcare personnel and encourage them to take time off for self-reflection and self-care, and model this by doing it yourself. We cannot take care of others if we do not take care of ourselves first.

  4. Mpox, like other outbreaks, magnified health care inequities.

    Marginalized groups access care less frequently in normal times, and when outbreaks occur, some will not have a trusted clinician and therefore rely on their local health departments and safety net facilities. Equitable funding and resources are needed across all health departments to ensure they can serve their communities and reach the people most at risk during an outbreak response.

This post provides highlights from episode six of the Stories of Care podcast, Responding to Health Disparities and Clinical Challenges of Monkeypox (Mpox). To hear the full episode with Dr. Houlberg and earn CME credit, listen here.

Project Firstline is a national collaborative led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide infection control training and education to frontline healthcare workers and public health personnel. The American Medical Association is proud to partner with Project Firstline, as supported through CDC-RFA-CK20-2003. CDC is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this article do not necessarily represent the policies of CDC or HHS and should not be considered an endorsement by the Federal Government.


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