Advanced Practice Centers

Our research on public health preparedness modeling is funded directly by the Montgomery County, Maryland, Advanced Practice Center for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response. This APC is one of eight APCs supported by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). On the NACCHO web site is a map of the eight APCs, all of which are developing useful tools for public health emergency planners and information to share with the entire community.

A review of the APCs’ accomplishments shows that staffing during a disaster response is a common theme. The Seattle-King County (Washington) APC has developed plans for activating workforce to respond to a disaster.  The Santa Clara County (California) APC is working on plans to use medical volunteers to increase response capacity.  The Dekalb County (Georgia) APC has plans to use graduate students.

Preparedness for Kids

This is not about modeling, but it’s certainly relevant to preparedness planning: The Washington Post had an article by Mary Beth Sheridan on Wednesday, November 14, 2007, about government agencies teaching kids about emergency preparedness. The front-page article headline is “Boys and Girls, Can You Say Anthrax?”

The article states that preparedness experts hope that kids will encourage their families to get ready. They are using in-class lessons, coloring books, cartoon characters (with names like “Ready Eddie,” a character created by Howard County, Maryland), and web sites (like the DHS Ready Kids site). The program in Washington, D.C., is a six-week series of lessons at eight schools, and it focuses on a wide range of emergencies, according to the article, which also mentions that the American Red Cross Masters of Disasters program is used at some other schools in the Washington area.

I found on the Ready Kids site some basic information for making an emergency plan as well as a quiz, downloadable comic strips about planning, and some online games (including one that resembles the classic card game Concentration). The content is similar to that of other programs aimed at adults, such as the PLAN TO BE SAFE campaign that Montgomery County, Maryland, APC developed. My employer was recently reminding all of its faculty and staff to have emergency plans, so I can sympathize with the need to have something that will get a family’s attention. And the kids’ programs discussed in the article are not that different from the firefighters telling us to have a fire escape plan when they visited my elementary school years ago.

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Specialized Flu Clinics

The drive-through flu clinic by Howard County, Maryland, was one of nine flu clinics in the county this fall. These demonstrate the idea of having different types of clinics focused on specific populations. An “Adult Clinic” for those over 50 years old was held during the day on a Friday. A Flumist clinic was held on a weeknight evening for people from age 2 to 49 without chronic health problems; this would have been popular with families. Even the drive-through had two areas: one for adults, and the other for families. (Six other clinics are being held in the next month in different locations across the county to catch everyone else.)

Using different clinics to target different populations makes a lot of sense from an operational and logistic point of view. It moves each clinic away from the “job shop” model that tries to serve everyone (with a lot of complexity and waiting) and makes it closer to the “manufacturing cell” (or “focused factory”) model that can be more efficient by serving one type of customer. From a modeling perspective, focusing on one type of customer reduces the variability in the system; and variability is a root cause of congestion and other problems.