Guest Lecturer: Health Policy Helps Keep Children Safe from COVID

By Nicole Carrera

Published on October 26, 2021

David Rubin, MD, MSCEThe COVID-19 pandemic has shaped every aspect of life across the world, and its impact on children and schools has been a topic of high debate from the beginning. David Rubin, MD, MSCE, spoke at the 2021 Lois K. Cohen Endowed Lecture hosted by USciences on October 21, 2021. 

Dr. Rubin is the director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a program that aims to tackle the most pressing health-related issues facing children and families in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Dr. Rubin’s talk, entitled “Predicting the pandemic: From Science to Policy,” walked attendees through the steps PolicyLab has taken from March 2020 through to today to help local children and their families. 


From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PolicyLab has been focused on understanding all of the factors that impact the public’s safety while trying to find a balance between science and politics. PolicyLab’s COVID-19 research and forecasting was used to advise the White House COVID-19 Task Force, as well as governors, and other public health officials on potential emerging hot spots for transmission. 

Dr. Rubin has made numerous presentations to city, state, and national leaders including the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate, to guide evidence based health policy decisions on behalf of children across the nation.

“Applied public health is informed by the science,” he said. “But sometimes the decisions that are made politically are more complicated than the science”

Dr. Rubin explained that making policy recommendations and changes often takes bravery.  When he saw that policy makers were not warning the public about the risks of gatherings related to the Thanksgiving holiday, he went to the media in October 2020 urging the public to quarantine prior to attending family events for the holiday season.Because of this, new restrictions were put into place and the number of new COVID-19 cases dropped dramatically in the following months. 

“Sometimes you have to take the unpopular opinion,” Dr. Rubin shared. “That is probably the most impactful moment I’ve had in the pandemic.”

Cohen Lecture

PolicyLab also focused on safely reopening schools, and their model has been used as a reference by school districts nationally. Dr. Rubin concluded by sharing what has worked best for keeping local families safe during the 2021 school year, emphasizing transparency and the ability to quickly make changes as needed. 

“Schools that were the most successful in our region understood that this is a fluid situation, were clear and transparent with their communications to families, and were able to adapt needs to varying levels of transmission”

When asked about the future of the pandemic and the return to “normalcy”, he is hopeful, saying, “I can tell you it’s coming.” He noted the CDC’s efforts to move away from mask mandates as soon as it is safe to do so. 

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