To say that the past twelve months has been hard on everyone is the understatement of 2021. Many millions of individuals have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide, and more than a million have died. The severity of the pandemic has understandably commanded our focus, but this preoccupation has not come without costs. Many persistent public health threats have gone underattended, and some (eg, obesity) have intensified as a result of coronavirus mitigation efforts. In short, many of the chronic and infectious diseases that drove the morbidity and mortality of our citizens must now be re-engaged as the COVID-19 threat is slowly vanquished and life returns to a sense of normal in 2021.
COVID-19 has caused unavoidable but serious consequences related to delays in preventive care, missed opportunities for screening and treatment, and drastic declines in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Subsequently, diseases have gone undetected, treatments have been delayed, and diseases such as obesity have increased in prevalence. As such, conditions that had previously challenged the public health workforce have gained new traction, which will call for even greater resolve and dedication moving forward.
In the March/April 2021 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, there are several articles that should aid in renewed efforts to address chronic diseases. The issue begins with an editorial and a commentary highlighting the importance of practitioner engagement in cancer prevention and control initiatives supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In their commentary, Hursting and Chambers argue that the integration of practitioners into the implementation science efforts of the NCI will speed the translation of evidence-based research into practice by improving the practice relevance of the research conducted. This conclusion has relevance beyond the NCI's mission, and can be said of all efforts to implement solutions in the real world.
Also found in the current issue are a series of articles relevant to chronic disease prevention and control. Figgatt and colleagues present a novel use of data from electronic health records to estimate chronic disease prevalence among underserved populations. Related, Hawkins and collaborators describe the approach their team took to create the Best Practices Guide, which was designed to identify processes for translating research on blood pressure control and cholesterol management into a user-friendly, implementation-oriented resource for public health practitioners. Both of these important studies should help inform practice efforts to control chronic diseases.
Ultimately, public health efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic will prevail. Whether COVID-19 will be essentially eradicated like SARS or becomes endemic like influenza remains to be seen. Regardless, the public health community will need to remain vigilant for potential re-emergence or novel infectious disease threats in the future. However, it's imperative that we maintain our prevention and control efforts for chronic diseases in the face of new threats. Only by maintaining a comprehensive and balanced approach can the public health community be prepared for emerging threats while keeping our established adversaries at bay.
Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS
Editor-in-Chief Associate Editor