Elizabeth Stuart, Bloomberg Professor of American Health, on Evaluating the Effectiveness of COVID-19 Policies
November 23, 2020
Bloomberg Professor American Health Elizabeth Stuart was recently featured in a Q&A, "Evaluating the Effectiveness of COVID-19 Policies," published on the Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, governments have enacted a host of policies to combat the spread of the virus. These efforts have, in turn, spurred important questions: how do we know these policies are working? And how effective are these policies at stopping the spread of the coronavirus? To learn more about how researchers measure the impact and effectiveness of policy decisions like these, we spoke with Elizabeth Stuart, Bloomberg Professor of American Health and Professor of Biostatistics, Mental Health, and Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What is evidence-based policy, and what does it mean in the context of Covid-19?
In general, evidence-based policy means using data and evidence to inform policy decisions. This can cover a variety of different things in a number of different fields. Evidence-based policy often looks to inform interventions. Essentially, it asks the question, “If we implement this policy, will it lead to a better future than if it was not implemented?” Outside of Covid-19, evidence-based policy can also include monitoring, such as using data to track issues that are impacting a community, like violence or unemployment, and identify which issues need attention. With Covid-19, it can mean using epidemiologic data – essentially data about how a disease is spreading in a community – to inform policies intended to stop that spread. In this moment, we see virus case counts going up in some places, so evidence-based policy might ask, “If we implement widespread testing or contact tracing, is that going to have an impact on what will happen in the future?” Right now, we’re still in the middle of it.
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