As the voice of local health departments (LHDs), NACCHO supports local health officials and their staff by building LHD capacity, highlighting innovation, advocating for public health priorities, and connecting members. While all of these activities play a critical role in improving and advancing local public health practice, connecting members is one of the best ways to discuss and identify LHDs’ challenges, successes, needs, and capability gaps. In 2016, NACCHO, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), established the Infectious Diseases and Immunization (ID-IZ) Forum to do just that.
Overview and Objectives
The ID-IZ Forum is a communicable-disease coalition of 19 large-jurisdiction LHDs across the nation, including:
- Maricopa County Health Department, Arizona; Los Angeles County Health Department, California; Pasco County Health Department, Florida; County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, California; Pinellas County Health Department, Florida; East Metro Health District Health Department, Georgia; Chicago City Health Department, Illinois; Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland; Baltimore County Health Department, Maryland; Washoe County Health District Health Department, Nevada; New York City Health Department, New York; Columbus City Health Department, Ohio; Philadelphia Health Department of Public Health, Pennsylvania; Knox County Health Department, Tennessee; Houston Health Department, Texas; The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Texas; Tarrant County Public Health Department, Texas; Seattle and King County Health Department, Washington; and Santa Clara County Health Department, California.
Forum members will convene to discuss and strategize around the latest issues in infectious diseases and immunization. In particular, the Forum’s work aims to advance LHDs’ capacity to increase awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases and improve preparedness for emerging infection outbreaks – two core areas of local public health infrastructure.
According to the 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments – the largest, most reliable source of data on LHDs – almost all (93%) local health departments are engaged in epidemiology and surveillance of communicable and infectious diseases, and a significant majority provide adult (90%) and childhood (88%) immunizations. Further, a majority provide screening and treatment for infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and sexually-transmitted diseases (see Figure 1).
As such, the Forum will serve as a critical platform for enhancing knowledge and delivery of these services by enabling its members to:
- Access learning opportunities and resources;
- Exchange promising practices and lessons learned with peers;
- Elevate visibility of the importance of LHDs in immunization and infectious disease activities; and,
- Provide a voice for LHDs on federal laws, policies, and regulations.
“Having a forum for discussion and opportunities to hear about how other jurisdictions handle certain issues will be very helpful to our day-to-day work,” said Melina Turtle, Health Program Administrator and Vaccine-Preventable Disease Investigator at Baltimore City (MD) Health Department. Alana C. Sulka, Director of Epidemiology & Infectious Diseases at Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale County (GA) Health Departments, agreed and noted that participating members are hopeful the forum will strengthen their efforts by “providing evidence-based strategies to assist in furthering existing disease control and partner education efforts, and by developing a network of large health departments that may face similar challenges in implementing disease control and immunization efforts.”
In turn, the Forum will provide a first-hand look at what is happening at the local level, which will enhance NACCHO’s ability to assess gaps in funding or work, identify best practices, and better advocate for LHDs on the national level.
ID-IZ Forum Priorities
In order to strategically drive future activities, NACCHO developed and disseminated a survey assessment to Forum members. The goal of the assessment was to identify participating members’ priorities – both at the program level and across the health department – and understand what drives those priorities. While priorities ranged from reducing disparities and inequities to ensuring safe living environments, participating members indicated that their top priorities are: promoting, protecting, and improving health; improving access to healthcare services; preventing infectious and vaccine-preventable diseases; and, preparing for disasters and emergencies. In addition to exploring priorities, the assessment also uncovered the strengths (e.g., staff experience and competency, intra- and inter-department collaboration, multidisciplinary teams), challenges (e.g., staff capacity, lack of resources for targeted response and control efforts, fast-growing & diverse communities), and needs (e.g., funding, training, stronger partnerships) of Forum members. The data from this assessment will shape the framework of the Forum and the focus of its work.
NACCHO and CDC are pleased to facilitate the ID-IZ Forum, as it creates a bridge between two critical public health program areas and will serve to inform national decision-making with input from participating LHDs. For more information on the ID-IZ Forum, contact Erin Laird or Courtney Martin and be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming posts within this blog series!