For many Americans, 2020 was a year of reckoning and reflection, especially when it comes to our shared wellbeing. Resolutions for the new year look a little different this season as our collective priorities have shifted and the desire to help our community is stronger than ever. If you’re eager to make a difference in 2021, here are four ways you can advocate for public health.

  1. Volunteer for a Study

One of the most tangible ways to advocate for public health is by taking part in a scientific study. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in with Texas Health Resources, local organizations, and community leaders, are leading a groundbreaking initiative to understand the spread of the novel coronavirus. With the DFW COVID-19 Prevalence Study, the goal is to understand how many people actually are or have been infected in the local North Texas community and help develop effective and fair public health strategies to reduce any further deaths related to this disease.

This study is evaluating and testing approximately 45,000 people for active COVID-19 infection in Dallas and Tarrant Counties. “We have the questions,” said Jasmin Tiro, Ph.D., a co-investigator and an associate professor of population and data sciences at UT Southwestern, “but our community holds the key and we need as many participants as possible to help us unlock those answers.”

To learn more about how you can participate, visit www.utswmed.org/covidstudy or call 833-947-2577.

2. Stay Informed

The fields of medicine and science are continually evolving, and with the current pandemic affecting so many people around the world, it’s more important than ever to keep up to date on the latest developments and recommendations. Be sure to source your information from reputable sources and experts in the field, like national news outlets and trusted medical associations. For news that’s more specific to North Texas health and medicine, sign up for our newsletter or visit our COVID-19 Resources and Updates page.

3. Share Your Knowledge

A public health advocate is defined as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. In order to prioritize public health on a larger scale, we need to start first by discussing these things with our smaller circles of influence, whether that’s sharing an article on social media or explaining to family members the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing.

“The scope of the COVID-19 pandemic is worldwide,” says Richard E. Hoffman, M.D., M.P.H., a renowned epidemiologist and public health expert, member of the Southwestern Medical Foundation Board of Trustees, and UT Southwestern Medical School alumnus. “We all now begin to understand what epidemiologists do to protect the health of our communities. We are living through social distancing, which is different than anything we have ever experienced. We are learning about hygiene — about our hands, noses and mouths — and how they can spread diseases. We are learning about the social determinants of health — how certain infections don’t recognize any borders and tend to follow certain patterns. And we are learning that certain groups that may have less access to health care or have more chronic conditions are at higher risk of acquiring the infection in crowds and developing a complicated severe, if not fatal, case. I am confident that when we look back to understand what happened and why, our country will be strengthened.”

4. Hold Leaders Accountable

The field of public health extends far beyond epidemiology, and advocating for well-informed policy can leave a lasting impact. The American Public Health Association makes it easy to reach out to government officials at both the federal and state level with form letters and action items available on their site. The Texas 87th Legislative Session runs from January 12, 2021 through May 31, 2021, so now is a great time to reach out to your local leaders about issues that matter to you.