Stockpiling emergency preparedness supplies, such personal protective equipment (PPE), is a strategy employed by federal, state, and local health systems to prepare for public health disasters such as H1N1, SARS, and Ebola. However, PPE in stockpiles across the United States have been storage since they were purchased, upwards of 10 years ago, and have exceeded manufacturer expiration dates. Ms. Kerri Wizner, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, learned firsthand the challenges faced by public health emergency planners during her ASPPH fellowship with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). CDC/NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory is conducting field studies about stockpiled PPE to understand if long-term storage conditions and age affect the performance of PPE, specifically respirators.
Ms. Wizner had a front-row seat to this CDC/NIOSH and public health emergency planner partnership effort, which included coordination with the Strategic National Stockpile, Food and Drug Administration, International Safety Equipment Association, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, just to name a few. “It was exciting to help organize and lead meetings that brought together subject matter experts and leaders from top public health agencies,” says Ms. Wizner.
Working with its partners, the CDC/NIOSH project team developed a sampling strategy, identified relevant tests methods, and visited stockpiles across the nation. During the site visits, Ms. Wizner and the project team collected environmental data, sampled over 6000 respirators which were returned to CDC labs for evaluation, and observed stockpiling practices. Ms. Wizner designed the data collection checklists and forms, created and maintained the database, and ensured that data collected at the sites was accurate and informative for the study.
“I used my epidemiology degree in a practical setting and gained hands-on experience,” says Ms. Wizner. “My technical skills and knowledge of public health shaped the project and helped ensure that the study design would result in recommendations that are actionable for stockpile managers and policymakers.”
In addition to high-level stakeholder partnerships and the coordination of data collection, Ms. Wizner presented the team’s work at conferences and contributed to the development of presentations delivered by other team members. Dissemination efforts included NIOSH respirator manufacturer meetings, the International Society for Respiratory Protection annual meeting, CDC’s Laboratory Science Symposium, the American Public Health Association annual meeting, and the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo. Currently drafting the first peer-reviewed manuscript of this work, Ms. Wizner will be a lead or co-author on peer-review publications and NIOSH numbered publications that provide recommendations for stockpile practices.
Ms. Wizner summed up her ASPPH fellowship experiences at CDC/NIOSH, “it provided me with the opportunity to interact with leaders in the field and develop relationships with emergency response coordinators across the country. This fellowship opportunity helped me understand the complexity of emergency preparedness and the role that government plays to ensure that healthcare is ready for the next pandemic.”