How to navigate a public health crisis

The Covid-19 Intervention Manual offers insights and practical lessons from The Chelsea Project

A new handbook from the Center of Complex Interventions is a practical guide for researchers, local governments, and community organizers on how to design an effective, coordinated strategy to overcome the challenges of a pandemic. The Covid-19 Intervention Manual draws on lessons and outcomes from CCI’s experience leading The Chelsea Project, a collaborative effort that included government entities, local nonprofits, and startups.

Chelsea, Massachusetts had one of the highest COVID-19 transmission rates in New England in the summer of 2020. The Chelsea Project was a coordinated effort to identify the key drivers of disease spread and change behaviors to improve public health. Using research, on-the-ground outreach, and local government resources, the Chelsea Project deployed wastewater analysis, targeted PCR testing and vaccine outreach, and a community-led communications strategy. By summer 2021, Chelsea had one of the highest vaccination rates among cities with comparable demographics in the U.S. 

The manual describes the complexity of COVID as a “wicked problem”—one that has no clear solutions and where all solutions seem to cause additional problems. It then details how CCI identified the key strategies to tackle this complex public health problem, built a diverse team, and learned from successes and failures. 

Included in this manual are practical, evidence-based recommendations for:

  • Building and activating a diverse team
  • Creating a weekly cycle of data gathering, implementation, and learning
  • Working with partners
  • Effecting change in a community

We worked with a marginalized city of immigrants, and turned it around from being the epicenter of the pandemic to one of the highest vaccination rates. I believe what we learned from the community and the trust we built together are cornerstones for solving other health disparities. This manual is the “how” for moving public health into the next decade 

Cristina Alonso, DrPH, MPH, CPM – Public Health Director and Lead Author

The Covid-19 Intervention Manual is available for free here. The CCI team will also have hard copies available at their table at the upcoming APHA 2022 Annual Meeting, November 6-9 in Boston, MA.