LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has received national recognition for its efforts in support of Arkansas’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a press release, the National Network of Public Health Institutes presented its Network Member Impact Award to ACHI on May 18 during the 2022 NNPHI Annual Conference in New Orleans. ACHI Senior Policy Analyst Jennifer Wessel accepted the award on behalf of ACHI.
NNPHI stated on its blog that it was honoring ACHI for “tremendous efforts to support local data, information translation and critical partnership needs in the COVID-19 response in Arkansas.”
“We at ACHI are honored to receive this recognition,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “I thank NNPHI for this award, and I thank every member of our team for working tirelessly to translate COVID-19 data into meaningful information that informed local decision-makers, from city and school leaders to the general public. I believe our efforts, together with those of our many partners, demonstrated how crucial the collection, analysis, and distribution of public health data are in informing responses to public health crises ― not just this one, but those to come as well.”
Beginning early in the pandemic, ACHI worked with the Arkansas Department of Health to analyze and provide local-level COVID-19 data on the ACHI website. ACHI also worked with several partner organizations, especially the Arkansas Municipal League, to help interpret the data and provide guidance to local leaders as they navigated the pandemic and decided when to implement measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
ACHI suspended its reporting of local-level data in March because low testing rates and the prevalence of unreported at-home testing had begun to undermine the data’s reliability, but some COVID-19 data, including daily statewide counts of deaths and hospitalizations, continue to be available on ACHI’s COVID-19 in Arkansas web page at achi.net/covid19.
Numerous school districts relied on ACHI’s reporting of local-level COVID-19 data in deciding when to implement mask requirements. Also, collaborative researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADH and ACHI relied on ACHI’s data to study the protective effects of school mask policies. The study, published by the CDC in March, showed that Arkansas school districts with universal mask requirements had a 23% lower average rate of COVID-19 cases among students and staff members compared with districts without mask requirements.
ACHI also led a study, published in The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society, identifying health conditions associated with elevated risk for severe outcomes among COVID-19 patients; provided numerous virtual and in-person presentations to inform decision-makers in communities around the state; and kept the public informed about COVID-19 through blog posts, news releases, media interviews, and guest columns.