CHICAGO —The head of Chicago’s Department of Public Health addressed lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and her hopes to continue applying best practices across the city. 

Speaking at the City Club Monday, Dr. Allision Arwady reflected on the trying times of the pandemic.  

“So my whole team has worked to try to apply lessons from Covid-19 and turn them into long-term strategies to try and help address Chicago’s racial life expectancy gap,” Arwady said.  

Chicago’s top doc shared that during the pandemic, CPDH focused a lot of resources on vulnerable communities and hired people from those communities to help with contact tracing.  

“Of folks who start as contact tracers, then become vaccine ambassadors, then are doing the door knocking, then are answering the phones, having this flexible workforce that really looked like the communities where we most needed to build trust,” Arway said.  

Arwady said health officials also learned how to continue using data in new ways. During the outbreak, the group focused resources on Chicago communities with little access to healthcare. 

“If we prioritize things in the right way, yes, it’s good for those communities but also it’s good for all of Chicago,” Arwady said. “It got our outbreak under control faster and you want to take that approach. It’s not just sort of the ‘right thing to do,’ it’s actually the right thing to do from an epidemiological perspective.” 

Arwady hopes to continue using city momentum gained to build coordination community centers and relationships between community partners to help with other public health issues in our city. 

“It’s been about focusing on what public health does well, which is a lot of work outside of traditional clinic walls, focusing on prevention, partnering with healthcare and keeping the focus on inequities.”