Database lists choice pandemic-planning resources

Sep 24, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Public health officials looking for ideas and tools to help them prepare for an influenza pandemic can find an online collection of peer-reviewed resources on a Web site that was officially launched today: PandemicPractices.org.

The site describes and links to 130 "promising practices" from four countries, 22 states, and 33 counties. It was developed by the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), publisher of CIDRAP News, and the Pew Center on the States, part of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Compiled as a resource to save communities and states time and resources, the database enables public health professionals to learn from each other and to build on their own pandemic plans," states a news release from CIDRAP and Pew.

Jim O'Hara, director of health policy at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the federal government's pandemic flu plan will be "useless" if states and local communities are unprepared for a pandemic.

"Communities across the country are facing the challenge of translating broad requirements into local action, often with limited resources," he said in the news release. "This database is an excellent tool to help public health officials inform their own pandemic planning and may save valuable time and resources that would be spent crafting strategies from scratch."

According to the release, the site describes approaches that communities have developed to address three key tasks: altering standards of clinical care, communicating effectively about pandemic flu, and delaying and reducing the impact of a pandemic. Specific topics cover a wide range, from triage of possible flu patients and reopening closed hospitals to guidance for schools, isolation and quarantine strategies, and mortuary planning.

The database provides a brief description of each resource along with comments from the reviewers and links to the resource. The reviews were done by a group of 27 experts, including CIDRAP staff members, national reviewers from various disciplines, and an advisory committee.

The database can be searched by state or topic and by area of special interest, such as materials translated into multiple languages, materials for vulnerable populations, and tool kits for schools.

Here are a few examples of resources in the database:

  • "North Carolina's Ethical Guidelines for an Influenza Pandemic." A task force of public health and medical experts, according to the description, carefully addressed three ethical issues: the responsibility of healthcare workers to provide care and to be protected, the balance of individual and community needs, and the "prioritization" of limited resources.
  • "Reopening Shuttered Hospitals to Expand Surge Capacity." The materials, provided by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, describe the authors' experiences in reopening a closed hospital in Boston and offer an extensive tool kit to address problems others may encounter in doing the same.
  • "Pandemic Influenza Mortuary Planning Guidelines." The materials recount how a committee in Barron County, Wis., assessed the county's capacity for processing human remains and established a Unified Mortuary Preparation Facility and a Family Assistance Center. The group developed a "strategy to increase remains processing capacity through resource sharing and utilization of a unified command structure."
  • "Isolation and Quarantine in Alexandria, Virginia." The document details the city's strategy for invoking and enforcing isolation and quarantine for any contagious disease that poses a public health threat.
  • "Stay at Home Toolkit for Influenza." The kit, from Montgomery County, Md., is "a user-friendly guide for family reference, including tabs."

"There are strong examples throughout the database of innovative practices developed in one part of the country that would be applicable elsewhere," Sue Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said in the news release.

Work on the project began in July 2006 with Jill M. DeBoer, MPH, associate director of CIDRAP, serving as principal investigator.

Items for the database were gathered through a combination of Web-based research, targeted surveys, interviews with key public health leaders, and collection of material at conferences, said Amy L. Becker, MPH, the project coordinator at CIDRAP. She said more than 200 practices were considered.

More materials will be added to the database in time, Becker told CIDRAP News.

"We've already received new submissions that will be entering the review process soon," she said. "As we get those reviewed by, first, our internal staff experts and then some of the expert reviewers nationwide, we'll post those materials on the site. I would encourage people to check back for updates."

See also:

Promising Practices site
http://www.pandemicpractices.org/

CIDRAP-Pew news release
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/files/94/pprelease.pdf

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