The Intersection of Infection Prevention and Control and Healthcare Equity

Infection prevention and control are the actions we take in health care to keep people from getting sick.

How does that tie into health equity and better health outcomes for all people?

Let’s learn from the experts on the American Medical Association’s (AMA) podcast, Stories of Care, part of its partnership with Project Firstline of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC’s Project Firstline is an infection control training and education collaborative designed to ensure all healthcare workers, no matter their role or educational background, have the infection control knowledge and understanding they need and deserve to protect themselves, their patients, and their coworkers.

What is Stories of Care?

Stories of Care is a CDC Project Firstline podcast from the AMA that examines the intersection of infection control, equity, and healthcare practices through the voices of experts and frontline healthcare personnel.

The podcast aims to educate listeners about critical infection control information and make information accessible to healthcare personnel and their communities.

The host of Stories of Care is Dr. Megan Srinivas, an infectious disease physician and translational health policy researcher at the University of North Carolina who resides and practices in Iowa.


How Does Stories of Care Connect Healthcare Equity and Infection Control?

In the premiere episode of the podcast, Dr. Srinivas speaks with Dr. Michael Bell, an expert in drug-resistant pathogens and healthcare-associated infections at the CDC, and Dr. Karthik Sivashanker, vice president of equitable health systems and innovation in the Center for Health Equity at AMA.

Together they discuss how infection control and healthcare equity intersect, what their own experiences have taught them, and about the urgent need to embed healthcare equity into their work.

The  episode starts with Dr. Bell defining infection prevention and control .

“Infection prevention and control are two sort of circles on a diagram all related to patient safety, personal safety, and the safety of our colleagues,” Dr. Bell said.

Dr. Sivashanker goes on to define healthcare equity.

“We’re talking about fair and just opportunities to be as healthy as possible. So that means removing obstacles to thriving, like poverty, discrimination, powerlessness and lack of access to goods, fair pay, education, safe environments, criminal justice and, of course, health care,” Dr. Sivashanker said.

Dr. Bell gives an example of how these intersect when discussing patients undergoing hemodialysis.

“This is a population of individuals who are starting with a health issue that puts them at a major disadvantage, that are tied to a health system that is supposed to change out their blood, all of it, three times a week, a major issue. And yet most of them are not high in terms of socioeconomic status. Many of them come from communities or backgrounds that are inherently disadvantaged because of racism or other inequities,” Dr. Bell said.

Dr. Bell also shares why physicians need to be aware of how healthcare safety and infection control practices affect patients with poor health care access.

“Thinking about how we from the healthcare safety, infection control and prevention can do more to raise both understanding and awareness. I think that’s an important starting point, as well as impact and effectiveness of care for that population is one of the examples of areas where we’re focusing,” Dr. Bell said.

Dr. Sivashanker explains why healthcare providers also need to focus on system changes to achieve healthcare equity and infection control.

“What I’m really saying is pick an outcome, almost any outcome out there and look hard enough and you’re going to find inequities. And the question is, what are we going to do about it? We don’t need any more studies at this point identifying disparities across X or Y outcome. We need actual action supported by resources and infrastructure, focused on system redesign. And when we talk about infection control, that that holds true as well,” Dr. Sivashanker said.

Dr. Sivashanker also touches on creating system changes to prevent worker burnout across the healthcare field is vital.

“When we think about burnout, let’s not just talk about burnout of physicians. Let’s talk about burnout of our frontline workers. Let’s talk about burnout of our transport staff and food services. And they may be burning out for some of the same reasons and some of them different reasons. But at the end of the day, when you start to design solutions, let’s design solutions that work for everyone and that improve the well-being for everyone,” Dr. Sivashanker said.


How Can You Contribute to Healthcare Infection Control?

Frontline healthcare workers can access more information about infection prevention and control in  healthcare settings by visiting  CDC’s Project Firstline’s website.

Project Firstline creates educational resources on a variety of infection control topics, including resources on recognizing infection risks in health care, as well as resources on infection control and COVID-19.The easily accessible content includes   and , web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator  to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.

Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is also working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to bring CDC Project Firstline content to frontline healthcare workers to protect themselves, their facilities, and their patients (from Latino and all communities) from infectious disease threats.

You can read these articles:

Learn more about infection control and training opportunities at Project Firstline.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline.

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