The importance of COVID-19 education
Serving with Respiratory Health Association has been rewarding during this year of change and uncertainty. Initially, my role was to educate communities about asthma warning signs, management, and medication adherence to help decrease hospitalization rates and increase the number of individuals with their asthma under control among high-risk populations. We were compelled to switch gears to address the current needs of the community, which surrounds the impact of COVID-19 on lung health. I have spent the past few months conducting needs assessments through outreach and research to collect information about the true impact that COVID-19 has on the lives of both healthy individuals and community members living with respiratory health complications. As we know, COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe. Severe conditions can lead to lung complications (such as pneumonia), acute respiratory distress syndrome, and lasting harm to the lungs and other organs. The potential for severe lung complications raises concerns for people who smoke, people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD), Asthma, and other existing health problems. It is important for populations that are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to take proper precautions and preventive measures to stay healthy. To address these concerns, I have been creating fact sheets that cover COVID-19 updates, prevention, and education for various populations. The COVID and Lung Cancer, Smoking During the Pandemic, and COVID and Asthma fact sheets educate communities about the risk factors associated with each condition, CDC-recommended precautions, frequently asked questions, and links to additional resources when necessary. It is important that individuals with compromised lungs continue to take appropriate steps to protect themselves and those around them from contracting COVID-19. I have also created fact sheets on COVID-19 vaccines and general vaccine development to provide people with science-based information to help keep them informed about the safety and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine (and vaccines in general). These fact sheets are a reminder that it will take all of us to bring an end to this pandemic.
This COVID-19 education is aimed to decrease the stigma around vaccines and hopefully increase vaccine acceptance among high-risk populations. It is believed that vaccine hesitancy plays a role in the decreased vaccine coverage and may increase the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. Giving communities access to reliable information from a trusted source allows them to make informed decisions about their health behaviors. The driving force for many is guaranteeing safety for themselves, their family and friends; they just need the proper information, conveyed in a coherent way, that will allow them to be comfortable with making decisions that will keep us all safe. I feel that my role as a future public health professional is to work with the community to instill confidence in the preventive interventions and practices available, increase awareness of the severity of diseases to combat complacency and increase access to resources for the underserved population to reduce health disparities. I truly believe that public health is a team effort.