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Jonathan Kanter was a recipient of one of the UW Population Health Initiative’s pandemic grants featured in this UW News article.

‘A turning point’: UW Population Health Initiative’s pandemic grants changed how the university works

Jake Ellison and Rebecca Gourley

UW News

A year ago, seemingly overnight, streets emptied, shops boarded up, grocery shelves were cleared, schools closed and the University of Washington led universities nationwide in moving all instruction online. Nearly all of us disappeared inside, stunned and staring out at a world suddenly paralyzed by something we’d only seen in movies or read about in books: a global pandemic.

Then came the questions: How long will the virus keep us inside and shut down? What will happen to the people who can’t work from home or don’t have a home, and how can we protect them? What communities are getting hit hardest by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, why and what can we do about it?

The questions went on and on, but where could the answers be found?

For the UW — which in 2016 launched the Population Health Initiative to bring interdisciplinary understanding and solutions to the biggest challenges facing communities — the pandemic was a crystallizing moment.

“This was a turning point for the Population Health Initiative,” said Ali H. Mokdad, the UW’s chief strategy officer for population health and professor of health metrics sciences at the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “A turning moment, when the university said to our researchers: ‘Give me your best idea and let’s do it.’”

Five months later, the initiative had funded 53 pilot projects out of 207 applications, totaling a collective $1.7 million. The common theme for these projects was to understand and mitigate the health, economic and equity impact of COVID-19 on communities — particularly the communities of color that have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.

View the researchers featured here.