New Initiative Will Help State and Local Health Agencies Prepare for Pandemic Flu

New Initiative Will Help State and Local Health Agencies Prepare for Pandemic Flu

State and local health departments will soon get additional help preparing for a potential pandemic influenza through a partnership announced today between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. CIDRAP is one of the nation's leading centers of scholarship and action on public health and pandemic flu. The project, a complement to the Trusts' Pandemic Preparedness Initiative launched earlier this year, will identify the most problematic issues state and local agencies may confront in a pandemic, and then, by summer of 2007, collect and widely disseminate innovations and options for addressing them. Topics could include such pressing concerns as how to communicate effectively to underserved populations; how to redefine standards of care during healthcare emergencies; how to develop surge capacity in health systems; and how to coordinate among local, state, and federal agencies.

“Although public health officials don't know exactly when – or if – pandemic flu may strike in the next decade, it is wise to work now to help expand the capacity of those state and local agencies that serve on the nation's public health frontlines,” said Jim O'Hara, director of policy initiatives and the Health and Human Services Program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “By sharing best practices now, we can help avoid delay and confusion and increase effectiveness if and when a pandemic flu or other major health crisis does arrive.”

The project draws on CIDRAP's outstanding public health leadership and adds a second policy partner – the Pew Center on the States (PCS), which was established in 2004 to examine critical issues facing states, and identify and promote effective, nonpartisan policy solutions. PCS will take the lead on disseminating the information developed by the Trusts' initiative.

An advisory committee will include many of the nation's most respected names in public health:

  • Jim Blumenstock, MA, Senior Principal Director for Public Health Protection and Preparedness Policy for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO);
  • Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and State Epidemiologist;
  • Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Division Director and Acting Health Director, North Carolina Division of Public Health;
  • Martin D. Fenstersheib, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Santa Clara County, California;
  • Michael Fraser, PhD, Deputy Executive Director, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO);
  • Kathleen Gensheimer, MD, MPH, State Epidemiologist, Maine Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Jerry Rhodes, Deputy Director for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health's Division of Threat Preparedness;
  • Peter Shult, PhD, Director, Communicable Disease Division, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene;
  • Skip Skivington, MBA, Interim Vice President of Supply Chain, Procurement & Supply, Kaiser Permanente;
  • Phyllis Tan, M. Phil, Staff Analyst in risk communications, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for the Bioterrorism Preparedness Program;
  • Dorothy Frost Teeter, MHA, Interim Director and Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County, Wash.;
  • Sara Watson, PhD, senior officer in State Policy Initiatives of The Pew Charitable Trusts; and
  • Isaac Weisfuse, MD, MPH, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

With expert guidance from this committee, the project will identify practices in state and local health departments that could be easily adapted or transferred to other agencies, conserving valuable resources.

“Right now, too many state and local health departments have to reinvent the wheel as they move through the planning process,” said CIDRAP Associate Director Jill DeBoer, principal investigator on the initiative. “This project will allow departments to share and build on the work of their peers nationwide, and help speed the process of pandemic preparedness while sparing resources."

Experts predict that an influenza pandemic could have daunting consequences in the United States, including: 89,000 - 1.7 million deaths, more than 2 million hospitalizations, and severe economic disruption. While the federal government is providing policy guidance regarding pandemic preparedness, the real challenge of planning for an influenza pandemic falls chiefly on state and local public health departments. And now, they are grappling with similar, overwhelming challenges.

About the Partners

The Pew Charitable Trusts serves the public interest by providing information, advancing policy solutions and supporting civic life. Based in Philadelphia, with an office in Washington, D.C., the Trusts will invest $248 million in fiscal year 2007 to provide organizations and citizens with fact-based research and practical solutions for challenging issues.

CIDRAP was created in September 2001 as an interdisciplinary center in the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center. Its mission is to prevent illness and death from infectious diseases through epidemiologic research and the rapid translation of scientific information into real-world, practical applications and solutions.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that examines critical issues facing states and identifies and promotes effective, nonpartisan policy solutions. The Center issues regular reports, issue briefs and 50-state assessments and holds convenings of diverse stakeholders to foster consensus.