$2.7M for Digital Health Equity and Future Pandemic Preparedness

Federal Funding Supports UC Davis Projects

The University of California, Davis, will receive $2.7 million for two projects that advance digital health equity and future pandemic preparedness following the passage of federal spending legislation.

The projects include $1.7 million for UC Davis Health’s Digital Health Equity Program and $1 million to help UC Davis establish a Future Pandemic Prevention and Rapid Response Institute.

Digital health equity

Funding for UC Davis Health’s Digital Health Equity Program will support the creation of a regional digital public health platform to improve access to and continuity of care for vulnerable populations in the Sacramento area and the Northern California region.

For decades, health disparities in the United States have been an ongoing public health challenge, especially for racial and ethnic minority populations. On average, racial and ethnic minorities are in poorer health, suffer worse health outcomes, and have higher morbidity and mortality rates than their white cohorts. Underrepresented minority and low-income populations experience disproportionately high rates of preventable disease and premature death across many conditions. Such disparities can result in severe medical, social and economic consequences including increased mortality.

This project will fund four digital health navigator positions along with IT infrastructure that will expand UC Davis Health’s ability to partner and coordinate with federally qualified health centers to bring more services to vulnerable patients and community members and make access to health care easier. The program will work with community organizations to join this digital platform, to further improve care coordination and access to non-health services.

“This much needed project will address some of the most pressing challenges around digital health equity, access to care, and population health,” said Joshua W. Elder, medical director of Express Care (Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine) at UC Davis Health. “This program will prioritize the importance of having equal access to quality health care for all individuals on a national level.” Elder submitted the proposal along with the support of 16 regional stakeholders.

“This program will establish UC Davis Health as the statewide leader in telemedicine and digital health, while building on the medical center’s long history of reaching out to the most vulnerable, underserved populations in the region,” said Tamara L. Scott, administrator of the Digital Health Equity Program.

Preparing for future pandemics

The $1 million in funding will lay the foundation needed for UC Davis to launch a Future Pandemic and Rapid Response Institute that can help the U.S. anticipate, prevent, recognize and respond to emerging diseases and pandemic threats.

The new institute will build on UC Davis’ decades of emerging infectious disease research and its USAID-funded leadership in pandemic prevention and response in other countries to apply its experience and expertise to national needs.

The institute aims to assess gaps in the nation’s capacity to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats. It will provide the One Health training necessary to develop the next generation of pandemic specialists, while also accelerating public access to research findings. The funding will help create high-quality laboratory design guidelines to rapidly enable pathogen studies and diagnostic surge capacity. It will also help accelerate access to and translation of findings from UC Davis’ health expertise to speed the development of new treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests. 

“Emerging infectious diseases do not have to define our near or long-term future, but we must take decisive, coherent action now to address the threat of future pandemics,” said project lead Jonna Mazet, vice provost of Grand Challenges and a Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Disease Ecology at UC Davis. “Now is the time to converge science, reason and political will to prepare for, and hopefully prevent, the next pandemic.”

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