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COVID-19 NC: University Quick-Switch, Message Mix-Up & Primary Check-In

Editorial in UNC Chapel Hill student paper after the university announces all undergraduate classes will move online.

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks withNC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the quick- switch to all online-learning by two universities in the UNC system, the complicated challenge of communicating public health messages during a pandemic along with a check-in with primary care practices. 

HC: Boy, what a difference a week makes. So, let's start off the bat with talking about the decision by UNC Chapel Hill and now NC State to switch to all-online learning. That's after Corona virus clusters started popping up on campus. The UNC student paper, The Daily Tar Heel pretty much nailed it in an editorial headline.

RH: The headline that we can say on public radio from their editorial is  “We Saw This Coming”. I mean, the whole thing, it was completely predictable group of  19-20-21-year-olds. They're at school,  they're excited to be away from home for the first time. They're not going to sit in their dorm rooms and socially distance.  

 HC: I feel like it's a watch and wait to see who's next.  I thought it was  fitting that you published an article this week – a  great in-depth look at the role of public health communication during a pandemic.

RH:  It’s got to be very understandable to a range of audiences, a range of educational levels and to have a lot of misinformation, contradictory statements – that’s  a problem.  Reporter Taylor Knopf talked to a psychologist at UC Irvine who compared things to after 9/11 when  there was one message:  It's “We're resilient, we're not going to let the terrorists win. Go shop, strengthen the economy.”   All of these things, very straight wrong, simple messaging. And that that's what we've needed with COVID but we're not getting it because there's all of this political foment and it's election season. So not sure that's going to change.

HC:  You have a piece on primary care physicians, which we heard a lot about early in the pandemic during the shortage of PPEs.  You talked to a doctor here in Asheville,  Dr. Mark McNeill.

RH:  We've been talking about value-based care. How do we get to paying for not just  going in  and doing a bunch of tests? What they (insurance companies) want to be paying for is to see that your patient does better for having all that testing. Dr. McNeill has been involved in a value-based care project.    And it turns out that in  June Blue Cross Blue Shield rolled out a value-based payment system for primary care practices. I'm starting to report on that and hearing that they're getting a lot of signups from primary care practices. So maybe, maybe -  COVID will help to drive some of this change in reimbursement that we've been looking for a couple decades. We'll see.

About Rose Hoban:

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News,as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health, policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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