CUNY partners with Columbia University for NYC Pandemic Response Institute


Clare Sharkey | The Ticker

Dani Heba and Adham Elshaabiny

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy was selected by the New York City government to be a key partner with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in operating the city’s Pandemic Response Institute.

“The Pandemic Response Institute, operated by Columbia University with key partner CUNY SPH, will play a critical role in preparing for future pandemics, and promoting equity in public health,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to the city’s press release.

The PRI was designed to be a permanent response to the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was established alongside the New York City Public Health Corps, with the two aiming to prepare for future health emergencies.

One major goal of the PRI is to strengthen existing technologies and systems to support real-time data collection. It also hopes to share and drive research on public health innovation to rapidly scale solutions to future public health emergencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to the critical need for strong and vibrant multisector partnerships to effectively protect New Yorkers from emergent health threats,” Columbia professor of epidemiology Wafaa El-Sadr, who is leading the PRI, said.

Another major goal of the PRI is to center racial equity in future responses, with a focus on disproportionately harmed communities of color. It also wants to pilot community-based partnerships that improve preparedness across all communities.

“Our school’s primary commitment to health equity and social justice, coupled with existing strengths in health communication, systems modeling, and community outreach will help to shape and support this initiative to advance a new vision for the health of all New Yorkers,” CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes said.

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez expressed his support for the plan, saying that it is “only fitting” that CUNY SPH be a key partner in the response due to CUNY’s support for the city and its students.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the lives of New Yorkers, CUNY did not hesitate to find new and innovative ways to support our city and our students when they needed it most,” Matos Rodríguez said, according to CUNY SPH’s press release. “It is only fitting then, that CUNY SPH would be a key player in the development of the New York City Pandemic Response Institute.”

Columbia is funding $2.75 million for the PRI over five years. CUNY SPH, Cepheid Inc and Inc., are providing $1 million each over five years, according to Columbia’s press release.

The PRI comes on the heels of the city and country’s unpreparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic that brought about death, hospitalizations and lockdowns in an unprecedented manner. New York City has seen nearly 2.5 million cases and about 55,000 deaths due to the virus.

“Born out of New York’s quick action during the early days of the pandemic, this institute will put our hardest learned lessons to work so that when the next public health crisis emerges, New York City will not only be prepared, we will be ready to lead these global fights,” de Blasio said.