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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

IU Bloomington Receives Grant to Train Non-Health Workers who Respond to Infectious Diseases like Ebola

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and partners have been awarded a $1.3 million National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant as part of a collaborative project to help develop curricula and deliver training for non-health workers who might be exposed to the Ebola virus and other serious infectious diseases.

The project, called the Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Initiative, is a consortium of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, led by co-principal investigator Dr. Shawn Gibbs; the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, led by co-principal investigator Dr. John Lowe; the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, led by Dr. Janelle Rios, and Dr. Robert Emery; the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led by Dr. Paul Biddinger; and Dillard University led by Dr. Beverly Wright.

The initiative aims to impact the health of communities by providing well-designed, practical, hands-on training regarding health, environmental infection control and safety to mitigate exposure for workers responding to Ebola virus disease and other serious infectious diseases.

“Most training resources have gone to those providing direct patient care,” said Dr. Shawn Gibbs, executive associate dean for academic affairs at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “This grant will add a whole other level of training for those responsible for aspects of response to highly infectious disease, who are not involved in direct patient care.”

The project builds upon a long-standing and successful relationship between UTHealth partners and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, including two large multistate, multiyear awards. A collaborative pilot award in spring 2015 funded a preliminary version of this training initiative and partnership.

The enhanced training materials that are part of this new award will focus on facility workers who work closely with or dispose of potentially biohazardous materials; who prepare for and conduct emergency response, including clean-up and remediation of biohazardous material; and who work in mortuaries or laboratories that receive potentially infectious materials. Training materials will benefit officials responsible for preventing, deterring or responding to biohazards, including emergency medical technicians and law enforcement.

The goal is to prepare workers and communities for the actual risks associated with Ebola and other high-consequence infectious diseases. The training will also help these groups protect themselves, their colleagues, their communities and the environment from exposure based on sound scientific methods, including research conducted by the team, as well as to promote the health, resiliency and financial stability of workers and their communities.

“This funding will really strengthen the capabilities of these industrial sectors to respond to a wide variety of highly infectious disease events,” said Dr. John Lowe assistant professor in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We hope to give them the support and the resources needed to successfully protect their workers.”

Dean Mohammad Torabi, and Chancellor’s Professor at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, added: “IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is focused on research and reimagining public health in order to promote health locally, nationally and globally, and our faculty are working on some amazing research. Shawn is just one example of faculty doing great work within our school. Research such as this helps us further our mission as a school and to enhance public health across the world.”