The overall goal of Emory University Rollins School of Public Health’s Long Term Care (LTC) Emergency Preparedness Project is to examine the emergency preparedness policies and capabilities of long term care providers. Led by Dr. Sarah Blake, assistant research professor, with support from Dr. David Howard, associate professor, and Mr. Jonathan Hawley – all in the department health policy and management – the project began as an initiative funded through the Emory Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC) to assess emergency preparedness of providers of medically vulnerable populations, including nursing home, home health, and dialysis patients.
Over the past nine years, this LTC project team has collaborated with public health, emergency preparedness agencies, and long-term care associations in California, Florida, Georgia, and West Virginia to examine and catalog the specific emergency preparedness needs of their long-term care facilities. This research led to the development of two long term care emergency preparedness web-based portals in Florida and West Virginia, the purposes of which are to assist nursing homes by strengthening access to essential emergency preparedness information. These web portals (www.ltcprepare.org and www.911wv.org) serve to strengthen their preparedness capabilities by providing resources related to state and local emergency preparedness planning and response, training, and disaster recovery.
The collaborations made between this Emory team and its Florida partners have been tested most recently during Hurricane Irma in September. The hurricane had devastating impacts on certain nursing homes in Florida, and the Emory team remained working closely with its partners at the Florida Health Care Association throughout this time. On September 22, the LTC Emergency Preparedness Project team published a post in the American Public Health Association’s blog Medical Care that discusses the availability of local, state, and national emergency preparedness resources for long-term care providers. This blog highlights the importance of nursing home associations as well as health care coalitions in helping long-term care providers plan for and execute their disaster planning.
Other new initiatives of this project have been the investigation of nursing home policies regarding testing and reporting of Legionnaire’s disease in nursing homes. In 2017, during the course of the project, new federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were released requiring all Medicare certified health care providers to develop and implement a water management program in large part to prevent the growth and spread of Legionella bacteria within health care facilities. Nursing homes in Florida and Georgia were surveyed to assess awareness and implementation of this new requirement.
The Long Term Care (LTC) Emergency Preparedness Project is one of four projects within the Emory University Preparedness and Emergency Response Translation and Dissemination Initiative funded by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) under a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The other three projects include the Preparedness in Jails project led by Dr. Anne Spaulding, the Link to MomVax project led by. Dr. Allison Chamberlain, and the ReadyVax App expansion project led by Dr. Saad Omer. All projects focus on preparedness of vulnerable populations, and more information can be found on the Emory Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research (CPHPR) website.