Ukraine's Recovery, Mental Health First Aid, School Staffing: RAND Weekly Recap

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May 5, 2023

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss the trade-offs when making decisions about Ukraine's recovery; New York City's Mental Health First Aid training program; how to better prepare for another pandemic; principals' views on staffing challenges; security challenges related to hybrid work; and the new Veteran Affairs electronic health record system.

Volunteers remove debris from the House of a Culture in the village of Ivanivka, which was heavily damaged during Russia's attack, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine, September 3, 2022, photo by Vladislav Musienko/Reuters

Photo by Vladislav Musienko/Reuters

Weighing Options for Ukraine's Recovery

Even as the war in Ukraine drags on, decisions about reconstruction loom large. A new RAND report examines the trade-offs when it comes to determining how to prioritize reconstruction efforts, when to start the recovery process, and who might provide funding.

For example, the Ukrainian people want to return to normal life quickly. But starting reconstruction while armed conflict is still active could drain much-needed resources and do little to improve people's lives.

Deciding who should pay for the recovery reveals other trade-offs: Using private capital would be faster but would leave the Ukrainian government with less decisionmaking authority. Securing funding from international institutions would slow down the recovery, but it would also come with oversight to help guard against corruption.

The authors, all students at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, write that “there are no easy and universally beneficial solutions in recovery efforts of this magnitude.” That's why assessing trade-offs is so important. Their findings may help lead to outcomes that are easier for both the Ukrainian people and the international community to understand and accept.

Collage of five faces with pixelated overlay, design by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation from JohnnyGreig, brusinski, alvarez, shisheng ling, and Vectorpower/Getty Images

Design by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation; Images by JohnnyGreig, brusinski, alvarez, shisheng ling, and Vectorpower/Getty Images

Mental Health First Aid: Training People to Help Others

More than one in five American adults experience a mental illness in any given year. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we're revisiting RAND's evaluation of New York City's Mental Health First Aid training program. According to our survey results, 80 percent of trainees said they had used the skills they learned to help a friend or family member, and one-third said they had helped a stranger in the past six months. These findings suggest that Mental Health First Aid can have a lasting—and potentially life-changing—impact.

Negative pressure screening tents set up outside the emergency room entrance at University of Utah hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 9, 2020, photo by George Frey/Reuters

Negative pressure screening tents set up outside the emergency room entrance at University of Utah hospital in Salt Lake City, March 9, 2020

Photo by George Frey/Reuters

An Opportunity to Learn from COVID-19 Successes and Failures

U.S. pandemic response plans were no match for COVID-19. It's time to consider what can be done to better prepare for the next unknown threat, says RAND's Mahshid Abir. Fortunately, the upcoming reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, or PAHPA, offers just such an opportunity. As part of the reauthorization process, policymakers can assess the tough lessons of the last three years to develop a comprehensive health security strategy.

A group of teachers walking in a school hallway, photo by kali9/Getty Images

Photo by kali9/Getty Images

Principals Reveal Insights into School Staffing Struggles

In the spring of 2022, which coincided with a surge in COVID-19 infections, most principals struggled to keep their classrooms consistently staffed. That's according to a new RAND survey of school leaders. These principals also said that classroom vacancies had increased since the previous school year, largely because of declines in applications and accepted job offers. Notably, staffing issues were most prevalent at lower-income schools and schools serving mostly students of color.

A man in a yellow sweater talks to a group of people on a video conference call on his computer, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Hybrid Work Is Here to Stay. It's Time for Security to Catch Up

The COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire next week, but millions of Americans continue to work from home. Workplace security practices are still struggling to adapt to this new normal, says RAND's Douglas Yeung. For example, for workers who require a security clearance, there isn't yet a digital alternative to physical requirements such as in-person fingerprints. As security practices evolve, they should “strive to support everyone who works,” Yeung says, “wherever they are.”

Department of Veterans Affairs sign on a VA building, photo courtesy of Department of Veterans Affairs

Photo courtesy of Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Modernization Challenges Go Beyond Software

Missing physician orders. System outages. Increased risk to patients. The new Veterans Affairs electronic health record system has had its share of problems. Decisions about next steps—fix the new system, rewrite the old one, or do something else entirely—are still to come. But it's not just about fixing the software, says RAND's Shira Fischer. The VA should also consider bigger-picture questions related to hospital standardization, VA culture, and patient safety.

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