On December 17, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual report on the state of prevention and control of infectious disease outbreaks in the United States. Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases analyzes the country’s policies related to ongoing and emerging infectious disease threats and provides recommendations to address gaps in the public health and healthcare systems. The report concludes that “the United States must redouble efforts to better protect the country from new infectious disease threats, such as MERS-CoV and antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and resurging illnesses like whooping cough, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea.”
NACCHO served as a peer reviewer for the Outbreaks report and remains committed to investing in infectious disease prevention and control efforts at the local level. To advance two priorities on NACCHO’s 2015-2016 Strategic Map – strengthening local health department (LHD) performance and providing the national voice for LHDs – the organization provides a variety of infectious disease prevention and control-related resources for LHDs. These include easy-to-use tools, best practices resources, grant assistance, training courses, conferences, and resources and information for public health advocacy.
Below is a brief list of resources provided by NACCHO that address the national issues and recommendations put forth in the Outbreaks report.
A. Increase Resources to Maintain and Modernize Public Health Capabilities and Have Consistent and Science-Based Policies Across the Country
In June 2015, NACCHO released the 2015 Forces of Change survey containing new findings on the forces that affect change in our nation’s LHDs. Results show LHDs face challenges and opportunities as the public health and clinical care environments evolve. LHDs continue to experience budgetary challenges and the fiscal and political environments have had an impact on the type and scope of services LHDs provide.
B. Modernize Disease Surveillance – For Detecting, Tracking and Containing Disease Threats
NACCHO created “Flu Near You: A Guide to Engaging in Participatory Disease Surveillance” to help LHDs get started with the Flu Near You platform to benefit their community’s flu awareness and tracking efforts. Through Flu Near You, thousands of volunteers answer a brief, weekly digital questionnaire about their health for crowd-sourced flu surveillance.
C. Incentivize and Support Medical Countermeasure Research, Development and Distribution
On the Defining and Identifying At-Risk Populations for Medical Countermeasure Planning and Response podcast, a panel of LHD preparedness planners discusses how they define the preparedness planning needs of at-risk populations in their jurisdictions and how they have accounted for those with functional and access needs in their medical countermeasure response planning. Listen to the podcast to discover best practices for identifying these populations and considerations for inclusive medical countermeasure planning.
D. Address Climate Change Impact on Infectious Disease Outbreaks
NACCHO University, NACCHO’s online learning platform, provides courses to help LHD staff develop their public health knowledge and competencies. Take the Climate Change and Public Health online course to learn about climate change and the ways that climate change impacts public health by exploring the topic of climate change mitigation and adaptation and LHD roles in each of these areas.
E. Build Community Resilience
Nearly 40% of private-sector employees in the United States do not have access to paid sick days making it difficult for them to miss work when they are ill or have a doctor’s appointment. Paid sick days allow employees to stay home or seek preventive care without risking a family’s income or endangering the health of co-workers, customers, and others. NACCHO’s Paid Sick Leave Policies statement of policy can be used to support federal, state, and local legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick leave for their employees. To explore community resilience more in depth, register for the 2016 Preparedness Summit, which will explore the theme, “Planning Today for Rebuilding Tomorrow: Resiliency and Recovery in the 21st Century.”
F. Improve Health System Preparedness and Enhance Surge Capacity and Infection Control
Project Public Health Ready (PPHR) is a competency-based training and recognition program that assesses preparedness and assists LHDs, or groups of LHDs collaborating as a region, to respond to emergencies. The PPHR criteria are nationally recognized standards for local public health preparedness and will help enhance your LHD’s readiness for a public health emergency. Each of the three PPHR project goals—all-hazards preparedness planning, workforce capacity development, and demonstration of readiness through exercises or real events—has a comprehensive list of standards that agencies must meet to achieve PPHR recognition.
G. Improve Vaccination Rates
NACCHO’s human papillomavirus (HPV) project provides support to LHDs to identify strategies to improve vaccination rates for HPV, the leading cause of cervical and several other types of cancers. Despite the availability of a vaccine, HPV vaccination rates remain low. Learn more about ongoing HPV prevention efforts and download NACCHO’s HPV resources.
H. Curb Antimicrobial Resistance and Superbugs
Learn about the critical role that LHDs play in combatting antimicrobial resistance in the Antimicrobial Resistance and Stewardship: Local Efforts on a Global Issue fact sheet. Explore the threat of antimicrobial resistance, discover how LHDs can combat resistance and promote antimicrobial stewardship, and read about NACCHO’s three demonstration projects that exemplify how supporting local expertise and building capacity can effectively promote antimicrobial stewardship.
I. Reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections and TB
Communities across the United States are at varying stages of PrEP awareness and delivery for HIV prevention. Achieving the full promise of PrEP will require coordination among many groups, including local and state health departments, healthcare providers, and community-based organizations. To help achieve this promise, NACCHO developed the PrEP for HIV Prevention educational series to increase awareness and knowledge of the role of PrEP for HIV prevention and explore the potential roles for LHDs in delivering PrEP or supporting PrEP delivery as part of comprehensive HIV prevention programs.
J. Fix Food Safety
Foodborne and other enteric diseases affect millions of Americans each year. Many public health and other agencies are involved in efforts to mitigate the effects of these illnesses on public health and the economy. Outbreak identification and investigation is one of the key areas where multidisciplinary public health agencies take the lead. Learn about the work of NACCHO and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists as co-chairs of the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response to develop guidelines, a repository for resources and tools, and performance measures for response to enteric illness.
To read the full Outbreaks report, visit http://www.healthyamericans.org/reports/outbreaks2015/.