In Brief: Lessons from the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Clinicians and investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian offer guidance on protecting older adults and building a stronger partnership between the medical and public health systems in two recently published papers on COVID-19.

Article Shares Strategies Developed During Pandemic to Protect Victims of Elder Abuse

Policies such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders have heightened isolation for older adults, limiting access to medical care and support from family and friends, and putting a greater strain on their caregivers at a time when they are susceptible to severe illness and death from the virus. Such conditions likely increased the frequency and severity of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, which normally affects as many as 10 percent of older adults each year, while also reducing detection and reporting. An article published May 8 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology by practitioners in emergency medicine, psychiatry, and geriatrics and palliative care, with coauthors who work in legal aid, elder care, and victim assistance in New York City, explores COVID-19’s impact on organizations that protect victims of elder mistreatment. The authors also share practices from organizations including New York City Adult Protective Services, such as launching or expanding helplines, developing schedules for regular remote check-ins with at-risk clients, and conducting elder abuse survivor support groups remotely.

Corresponding author: Anthony Rosen.

Bridging the Gap Between Medicine and Public Health is Critical for Controlling COVID-19

A strong partnership between medicine and public health is required to prevent transmission, identify cases and save lives during a pandemic such as COVID-19. A commentary by Dr. Alvin I. Mushlin published on June 3 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine calls attention to the existing gap between the two systems, contending that the pandemic might have been averted—or lessened significantly—had the two disciplines been working together more effectively. Medicine aims to diagnose and treat diseases, and public health strives to prevent them. Attempts have been made to unify the two, but these efforts have struggled against the existing separation of public and private sectors, differences in education and licensure of professionals, and a history and culture of differences in thinking and emphasis that is incorrectly interpreted to assume that medicine advocates only for individuals instead of the population at large. Integration of the two systems, which has been stronger in many other countries, such as Germany and New Zealand, is crucial. Community-based epidemiology studies identify not only the causes of the virus’s emergence and spread, but provide the information doctors need to prevent and diagnose the disease, while medical interventions are needed to implement treatment and preventive strategies to control the epidemic and hinder its recurrence.

Author: Alvin I. Mushlin.

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