“As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, we knew Ariadne Labs could step into the fray and lead the way in providing trustworthy information and guidance in a moment of great need.”
—VILAS DHAR, TRUSTEE OF THE MCGOVERN FOUNDATION
In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation recognized the urgent need for evidence-based solutions, reliable information, and public resources to slow the spread of infection, establish best practices for clinical care and provide community guidance.Seeking a trusted global organization that could rise to this challenge, the foundation partnered with Ariadne Labs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“With their deep experience with Ebola, H1N1, and other urgent public health issues, Ariadne Labs has proven its ability to develop clear, evidence-based public health solutions that work in diverse settings and communities,” says Vilas Dhar, trustee of the McGovern Foundation. “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, we knew Ariadne Labs could step into the fray and lead the way in providing trustworthy information and guidance in a moment of great need.”
In March 2020, the McGovern Foundation awarded Ariadne Labs $1 million to apply its expertise to the global pandemic response. The gift is among the largest of the foundation’s nearly $10 million commitment to addressing the pandemic with grants to strengthen health system response and alleviate suffering in vulnerable communities. With this funding, the Ariadne team developed and shared protocols with global healthcare systems and with families looking for guidance as they navigate the pandemic. The tools continue to inform government preparedness and decision-making, hospitals’ infection control and capacity management, and community physical distancing practices.
For example, the team mined South Korea’s COVID-19 response strategies and singled out tactics for adoption. They tested spatial designs for clinics specifically geared to prevent infection and issued guidelines for care of vulnerable elders in nursing homes during the pandemic. They also created online resources for the public at covid19.ariadnelabs.org, such as a downloadable checklist for grocery shopping safely during COVID-19, perspectives from faculty and staff on the frontlines of the crisis, and highlights from media appearances by Ariadne’s experts.
Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH, executive director of Ariadne Labs, says the foundation’s support was instrumental in leveraging the team’s high-caliber roster of collaborators within and beyond the Harvard community—including researchers, epidemiologists, clinicians, public health professionals, and communicators.
“We know from our work with serious illness that effective communication between clinicians and the public helps ease fear, anxiety, and misunderstanding,” says Bitton. “By helping us act early, decisively, and with our full strength, the McGovern Foundation’s generosity allowed us to make the greatest impact and save lives.”