Office of Public Health Preparedness
Public Health Preparedness - Overview
Shelly Patton – Program Coordinator
The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) was created to prepare and respond to public health threats and emergencies from various sources, such as:
- Severe weather conditions (hot or cold)
- Communicable diseases – such as severe flu epidemics
- Environmental diseases – such as foodborne illness outbreaks (salmonella, etc.) and zoonotic disease outbreaks (rabies, West Nile virus, etc.)
- Use of biological agents such as smallpox or anthrax
Emergency Response Plan
The PHPR is also responsible for the development of emergency response plans including:
- Epidemic detection and response
- Use of the Strategic National Stockpile supplies
- Vaccination of the general public
The PHPR also facilitates communications between local health providers, the State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These communications are maintained via a Health Alert Network (HAN or AZHAN in Arizona) which is an infrastructure of secure Internet connections, fax machines and satellite connections. The AZHAN makes rapid dissemination of important public health information and alerts possible.
Public health professionals continually assess the general health of the community through various surveillance methods. By tracking certain diseases and syndromes (groups of symptoms) within the community, local surveillance provides the information needed for public health decision-making and establishing public health priorities. Epidemiological surveillance will also be managed by the PHPR division by creating a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week communications infrastructure utilizing AZHAN to send and receive urgent disease and public threat information.
Public Information and Risk Communication
It is the policy of Santa Cruz County Health Services to keep the public informed concerning public health issues. Information is regularly distributed to the media, health professionals, and the public through news releases, public service announcements, email, fax, and letters.
Santa Cruz County Health Services is also developing a risk communication plan that will keep the public informed during a public health emergency such as a bioterrorism event. The plan includes various ways to provide consistent information to the media and public in order to share valuable information and address concerns.
- Development and Distribution of Public Service Announcements
- Development of risk communication plan
- Establish relationships with various media outlet contacts
Education and Training
The PHPR division is continuously updating training resources that can be used to educate Health Department employees, medical professionals and the public. Education programs are also supplied by the State and CDC via webcast and satellite broadcasts. These educational materials play a critical role in preparing for public health emergencies.
- Creation of various training materials including disaster desktop exercises
- Public Health Training Network (PHTN)
- Creation of a training library for emergency preparedness and response materials