|School provides expertise, training, awards toward H1N1 flu preparedness and response efforts|
|May 28, 2009|
Preparedness is a critical area of interdisciplinary expertise at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The global public health crisis sparked by the H1N1 flu outbreak tested the depth and breadth of the School's many programs, training and response capabilities.
"The results of our response have confirmed for us the durability and effectiveness of our planning," said Bill Gentry, director of the School's Community Preparedness and Disaster Management program and health policy and management lecturer. "As this situation continues to unfold, we have confidence that we are using the same tools that we are communicating daily to our students through our curriculums to help mitigate the crisis."
"We were able to put more than three years of planning into practice," said Pia MacDonald, PhD, director of the North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness (NCCPHP) and research assistant professor of epidemiology. "We were able to see the value of the technical assistance we offer to state and local authorities and we received much positive feedback and appreciation from public health officials across the state."
The School is working closely with the UNC School of Medicine, UNC Hospitals, local health departments and, especially, the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services to ensure that health care providers, public officials and the general public were aware of H1N1 symptoms, best practices for avoiding spread of the virus, containment and treatment of suspected or confirmed cases and planning for treatment in case of exposure.
"Our hope is that, from our positive experiences with this crisis, even better preparedness plans and training programs will emerge," Gentry added. "We've got outstanding faculty, students and staff who are already taking what we've learned this spring and developing even more useful tools for potential outbreaks in the fall, and for other disasters that use many of the same resources."
The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health's preparedness responses include:
Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza
Along with the N.C. Division of Public Health, the School's NCCPHP has worked with local health departments across the state to prepare for seasonal and pandemic flu outbreaks. Since September 2006, NCCPHP has provided technical assistance to help local health departments bolster pandemic influenza preparedness plans. In 2009, NCCPHP has focused on addressing identified gaps in vulnerable population pandemic influenza plans at the local level. NCCPHP developed a toolkit website for local health departments called "Emergency Planning for At-Risk Groups." The toolkit, developed at the request of NCDPH, provides guidance to planners for identifying, engaging, communicating with and providing services to vulnerable populations during public health emergencies such as pandemic influenza. It also contains a collection of multimedia files documenting local promising at-risk planning practices in North Carolina. The toolkit website will be presented in a live demonstration at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, Canada in June 2009.
NCCPHP has leveraged its experience in survey research to conduct a study of health care practices in the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza. In coordination with a local health department in western North Carolina, NCCPHP surveyed primary care physicians and hospital pharmacists in 19 counties about their knowledge, attitudes and practices related to the use of antivirals during the 2007-2008 influenza season. NCCPHP provided Web survey design, data collection and analysis expertise to local researchers. Findings from the survey were presented at the Public Health Preparedness Summit in San Diego, California, in February 2009.
In partnership with the CDC Coordinating Office of Global Health, the Influenza Division, and the Office of Workforce and Career Development, NCCPHP is currently developing an 11-module online training course on avian influenza for a global audience. The course, which will be available online via the Lectora course delivery system and on CD-ROM, covers all aspects of avian preparedness and response including surveillance, case management, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions and ethical issues in influenza. NCCPHP held a course pilot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November 2008, and an additional pilot in Kenya or South Africa is planned for summer 2009. Data from course pilots are being used to revise and improve course materials prior to expected release in 2010.
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|Last updated June 01, 2009|