University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Systems Thinking Is Vital to Long-Term Equitable COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Wisconsin

Sarah Davis, JD, MPA; Eunice Y. Park, MS; Maria Morgen, BS; Baila Khan, BS; Kylie Donovan, BS; Manpreet Kaur, BS; Margaret B. Hackett, BA

WMJ. 2022;121(1):9-12,68

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For some, COVID-19 served as yet another crisis to illuminate the deep structural inequities in our society. Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) individuals, those in rural communities, and people experiencing homelessness experienced disproportionate harm—including death—from COVID-19. Deep analyses exist to guide experts who focus on specific communities. Here we champion tools that can be applied in times of calm and crisis to name longstanding structural deficiencies and intervene on root causes. The issue of equity in COVID-19 response and recovery involves multiple, interconnected systems, each with their own rules, histories, and invested stakeholders. The public health system does not stand isolated from health, economic, and civil systems, as emphasized by colleagues naming the triple threat of health, civic engagement, and economic opportunities faced by BIPOC individuals.1 Many communities and individuals experience intersectional disparities and find themselves at a disadvantage for COVID-19 response and recovery due to multiple factors. This complexity often can get lost in attempts to make sense of problems and select effective solutions. We undertook a systems analysis to learn from the response and recovery in Wisconsin and share takeaways in this commentary.


Acknowledgments: This commentary is a collaborative effort of the instructors and selective students in Public Health 785: Medical Care and Public Health Systems, one of the core required courses in the Master of Public Health Program at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We would like to extend our gratitude to the students whose classwork contributed to the contents of the commentary, including Nicole Korp, Aisha Marong, Kelsey Melah, and to Mary D. Michaud, MPP, who co-designed this course.
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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