Northeastern summit on innovative public health technology is an important first step to fixing systemic flaws

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the nation’s public health infrastructure was underprepared, to say the least.

Public health officials relied on fax machines to deliver test results, hand wrote people’s vaccination status on small pieces of cardboard and discovered that stockpiles of masks and gowns to protect health care workers were insufficient.

“We really have to re-invent public health,” said Alessandro Vespignani, director of the Network Science Institute and Sternberg Family Distinguished Professor at Northeastern. “This requires an all-hands on deck approach.”

It was in that spirit that Northeastern held a summit Tuesday on “Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Innovation in Public Health Technology.” The all-day, invitation-only event at the university’s EXP research complex on the Boston campus brought together policy, research and industry leaders from across the country.

Keynote speakers included Rear Adm. Susan Blumenthal, M.D., former U.S. assistant surgeon general and White House adviser; and Renee Wegrzn, director of the newly established U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

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Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

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