‘Staying in the lane’ of public health? Boundary-work in the roles of state health officials and experts in COVID-19 policymaking.

‘Staying in the lane’ of public health? Boundary-work in the roles of state health officials and experts in COVID-19 policymaking.

Publication date: Jan 17, 2024

The state-level COVID-19 response in the United States necessitated collaboration between governor’ offices, health departments and numerous other departments and outside experts. To gain insight into how health officials and experts contributed to advising on COVID-19 policies, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 individuals with a health specialisation who were involved in COVID-19 policymaking, taking place between February and December 2022. We found two diverging understandings of the role of health officials and experts in COVID-19 policymaking: the role of ‘staying in the lane’ of public health in terms of the information that they collected, their advocacy for policies and their area of expertise and the role of engaging in the balancing of multiple considerations, such as public health, feasibility and competing objectives (such as the economy) in the crafting of pandemic policy. We draw on the concept of boundary-work to examine how these roles were constructed. We conclude by considering the appropriateness as well as the ethical implications of these two approaches to public health policymaking.

Concepts Keywords
December bioethics
Governor boundary work
Health COVID-19 pandemic
Interviews public health ethics
Pandemic public health policy
sociology of health

Semantics

Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19

Original Article

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