Meeting the Moment: Giving Voice to Equity, Science, and Innovation in a Pandemic


As the threat level of the coronavirus heightened in early 2020, many people stood ready to serve in any way they could, not knowing the eventual severity or the toll that service would take throughout the year and even to this day.

On the frontlines of this pandemic, nurses, caretakers, grocery store staff, delivery drivers and countless others have been working while risking their lives for the greater good.

In a very different, though similarly inspired way, nonprofits of all kinds stepped up to this unimaginable challenge. And their work to date bears out the many ways they are continually working to meet this moment.

This pandemic underscores the importance of solutions that work — for families, for racial justice, for mental health, for housing, for hunger, for families, and for much, much more.

Explore this simple, interactive list of public interest work that our partners have inspired and led over the last year. As you do, you’ll learn about ideas that promote equity, science, and innovation related to COVID-19 as core to moving forward in service to a better world.

Mobilizing Fellows to Tell the Stories of How COVID-19 Impacts Communities Around the World

Throughout the pandemic, the Aspen New Voices Fellows have written over 100 opinion pieces and given over 175 interviews related to COVID-19. The topics range from the impact of COVID-19 on gender and the need for Africa to develop its own vaccine, to the importance of preventing a food crisis in Africa and beyond. 

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Afterschool Adjusts to Continue Supporting Students, Families

Nationwide, afterschool programs pivoted to support families by adjusting their operations to accommodate school closures and hybrid schedules. They offer extended hours, care for kids of essential workers, internet access, and academic and social-emotional support, which are especially critical for students who are experiencing learning loss and have working families. Afterschool staff provide meals and snacks, which combat increasing food insecurity. The afterschool field continues to advocate for better public funding to ensure that programs can keep their doors open and to expand access to the nearly 25 million kids who are waiting to enroll.  

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Training the Global Health Care Workforce

Project ECHO is supporting work in India, across the African continent, and throughout Latin America to better equip health providers to tackle COVID-19 in their communities and train the healthcare workforce to administer vaccines. 

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Supporting Indigenous Communities During the Pandemic

Since the pandemic began, more than 1.7 million COVID-19 cases were registered among Indigenous people living in the Amazon—with many of these cases resulting in death. Indigenous Leaders worked with a number of communications partners to lead a months-long campaign to help Indigenous Amazonians communicate about the impact of the virus on their peoples and to draw attention to the lack of government efforts and resources dedicated to ensuring their survival.

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Applying the ECHO Model to Train Frontline Public Health Workers

Project ECHO's network of partners in the United States transitioned a bulk of their work to support COVID-19 response efforts nationally. ECHO hubs around the country organized sessions for providers focused on multiple aspects of COVID-19 treatment and response. Project ECHO also partnered with the ASPR (the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Preparedness Response) within HHS to serve recurring Clinical Rounds for EMS, emergency departments and critical care teams. The effort has been widely attended by providers nationwide and is endorsed by 15 of the major relevant national professional associations. ECHO has also partnered with the CDC and the Indian Health Service (IHS) on COVID-19 response efforts. 

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Supporting Our Emotional Wellbeing

How Right Now is a mental health initiative from the CDC Foundation and the CDC aimed at addressing people’s feelings of grief, loss, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides quick, actionable resources from trusted national partners that help people care for their emotional wellbeing.


Advising Congress on Equity, Access, and Coordination of Vaccine Rollout

Dr. Julie Morita, Executive Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. She called for improved distribution by adhering to three fundamental principles: equity, accessibility, and coordination.

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Surveying the Experiences of Populations at Greater Risk

COVID-19 and the Experiences of Populations at Greater Risk is a national, ongoing survey, which explores deep-rooted views of those with low and middle incomes, with a focus on people of color, health, equity and race. Conducted by the non-profit RAND Corporation and funded by RWJF, the survey findings show that many people—even those who may have been hit hardest by the pandemic and long-standing inequities—still do not see systemic racism as a barrier to good health.

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Ensuring Quality of Care for People with Disabilities During COVID-19

People with disabilities of all ages are particularly vulnerable living with COVID-19. There is a shortage of caregivers to support these people, and a concurrent opportunity for family members to be paid caregivers. A solution that is good for families, for people with disabilities, and for their caregivers. The goal is to ensure safe, quality care from the most trusted caregivers. There is precedent for this under Medicaid, and this project seeks to expand family supports for people most at risk from acquiring the infection or needing care if they do get sick.

Following Nine Communities During the Pandemic

The Sentinel Communities COVID-19 Community Response Project follows the experiences of nine diverse communities and their response to the pandemic and related challenges. The project looks at issues ranging from preparedness to community collaboration to how community-based organizations are supporting children and families.

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Policy Recommendations to Ensure A Fair and Just Opportunity for Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released a series of policy briefs which include evidence-based recommendations to help people through the immediate health and economic crises and longer-term recommendations to ensure a fair and just opportunity for health. The briefs focus on housing, food security, and healthcare coverage and have been shared with policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the state level.

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Preventing Hunger and Reducing Poverty

The State of Childhood Obesity: Supporting Child Nutrition During the Pandemic Report compiles the latest research about key federal nutrition programs and recommendations for strengthening them to help prevent hunger and reduce poverty now and throughout recovery. The report includes a video about the impact of SNAP, testimonials from foodservice directors, and expert insights about The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

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Empowering Individuals with the Resources to Stop Smoking

People are smoking more during COVID-19, and the demand for Quitline services has dropped off, a reversal from the past years when smoking has been declining. The most vulnerable are the people who smoke the most -- people with mental health disorders, including substance abuse. This work brings attention to the problem and offers solutions based on experiences and knowledge gleaned from partner organizations such as NAMI, the American Lung Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the North American Quitline Consortium.

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Using Real-Time, Coordinated Data to Visualize The Pandemic

The US COVID Atlas is an interactive, open-source data visualization and clustering surveillance tool connecting near real-time COVID-19 cases, testing, mobility, and vaccination data with community indicators across US counties and states. Updated daily, the Atlas shows how the virus has spread since the start of the pandemic and helps uncover persistent and emerging statistical hotspots. The Atlas also offers customizable features that highlight the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable and marginalized communities. 

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The Importance of Social and Environmental Protections to Indigenous and Rural Communities

A report shows that governments of the five largest tropical forest countries (Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia and DRC) removed social and environmental safeguards that protected Indigenous and rural communities to boost their post-pandemic economies in 2020. As a result, human rights violations and forest loss are on the rise. 

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Equipping Public Health Officials With Critical Guidance and Information

Vital Strategies and Resolve to Save Lives elevated the voice of their president and CEO–and former CDC director–Dr. Tom Frieden to ensure policy guidance and accurate information was delivered to public health officials and the public about the pandemic and best practices to prevent the spread of infection.

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Raising Awareness Around a Set of Ten Policy Recommendations to Prevent the Next Pandemic

On World Environment Day, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report warning that future outbreaks will emerge unless governments take measures to prevent other zoonotic diseases from crossing into human populations. The report identified the trends driving the increasing emergence of animal-to-human diseases and set out ten recommendations to prevent future pandemics.

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Building National Virtual Learning Community to Bolster Nursing Homes

Project ECHO with two national partners––the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)–– launched a national virtual learning network to address COVID-19 in nursing homes. The effort has served more than 100 training centers around the country reaching 9,000 nursing homes (more than half of all nursing homes in the country) and providing expert guidance, case-based learning, and peer-to-peer sharing of best practices.

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Tracking and Analyzing Vaccine Distribution to Promote Global Equity

The Launch & Scale Speedometer at Duke's Global Health Innovation Center aggregates and analyzes publicly available data on vaccine procurement and manufacturing to track the flow of procurement and better understand global equity challenges. Their findings are made publicly available on their website and updated in real-time.

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Briefing the Media and Public on Critical COVID-19 Updates

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has hosted monthly briefings for the media and webinars for the public on COVID-19. During these virtual events, Hopkins scientists and other experts provide important background and relevant research on an array of topics related to COVID-19, including vaccines, celebrating holidays safely, reopening schools and mental health.

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