Jacinda Roach, the REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) program director for the Mississippi Public Health Institute, is currently directing a multi-year project focused on increasing breastfeeding and improving nutrition among African American families in three Mississippi counties, which is both more critical and more difficult during a pandemic. She’s also worried about her parents and family members who are in Louisiana, one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19. Jacinda took some time out to share her thoughts and words of encouragement for the workforce.
What has been the most challenging or difficult thing you’ve experienced so far in your work during this pandemic?
Not having as much face-to-face contact with others. I enjoy interaction with others, and this has been quite a change for me. Also, I have lots of family in Louisiana, including my parents, and I have not been able to see them for a while.
What are you most concerned about right now personally and professionally?
I am most concerned that I or someone in my family will be infected with the virus. My father is undergoing chemotherapy, and I am very worried about him. From a professional standpoint, I am concerned about the continued efforts of the public health projects in which I am involved. It is hard to keep the momentum going when certain activities have been put on hold.
What concerns you about the days and weeks to come?
I am concerned about our country’s economy and how changes may affect the health and well-being of our population. So many people are now unemployed and have trouble acquiring the basic necessities of life, such as food. This can have a lasting impact on health. I am also concerned about the long term effect that this virus will have on those who have contracted it since so much about COVID 19 is unknown.
How are you staying connected with coworkers and colleagues? What about family and friends?
I am staying virtually connected with my coworkers and colleagues through the Slack online platform. Face-to-face meetings have become conference calls. I think we are truly blessed to have access to such fantastic technology.
I have stayed in contact with family and friends by phone and through Facetime and social media. This has made being isolated and away from loved ones much more bearable.
What words of encouragement do you have for the public health workforce during this time?
We have to remember that this too shall pass. Current practices, such as social distancing, will allow us to be together again soon. We should use this time to stop and truly reflect upon our world and the importance of public health practice.