Filling in Pandemic Information Gaps Is One Key to Overcoming Challenges Faced by Many Communities

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, what concerns Rashon Lane (MA, Psychology, ’07) the most?

Getting at the root of the problem.

A behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lane says when people don’t have access to accurate information and health services, it affects the decisions they make—and their health outcomes, too.

“There are just so many gaps in what people have access to and what they know,” says Lane. “My job is to think of ways to fill and address those gaps. When you do, it helps everyone.”

With her training in psychology and evaluation, Lane’s research has helped identify increases in depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was part of a major survey last year produced by the CDC—in collaboration with Harvard University and Monash University in Australia—to measure the impact of the pandemic on groups disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While everyone was focusing on the physical risks of contracting COVID-19 last year,” she says, “our survey pointed out that the world was caught in the middle of a mental health pandemic, too.”

COVID-19 isn’t the first deadly virus Lane has ever encountered. In 2015, she was on the ground in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000, addressing public fear through community engagement. She led a health promotion team and worked with community members, helping them develop quarantine action plans so that the virus wouldn’t spread from household to household.

Six years later, Lane says the lessons she learned in Sierra Leone and the challenges she saw there—suspicion of the medical establishment and pursuit of untested holistic treatments—still hold for what she’s experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the answer—which was just as accurate back then—involves clear communication, community engagement, and education.

“I’ve always been interested in how people think, what they do, and the motivations behind their decisions,” says Lane. “I knew early on I wanted to study behavior and help people, and it’s why I chose the psychology track in college.”

Born in Richmond, California, Lane received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Tuskegee University before coming to CGU for her master’s and studying ways to assess the effectiveness of programs using evaluation tools. Long before that, though, when she was still in high school, she already found herself in a public health role. She volunteered to help educate the community about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

She credits her mother for giving her the drive to study human behavior and find ways to assist the CDC in its community outreach. Lane’s mother was a longtime Head Start educator. Her “interest and passion working with local underserved communities inspired me and showed me there are gaps in our education programs that, if we could just fill them, would make a significant difference in people’s lives.”

For Lane, creating access to better information in times of global crisis translates into equity for everyone.

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