Finding a new normal in the wake of disaster begins with successful incident response, a daunting task requiring strong leadership, quick decision-making, and coordination of efforts across a variety of organizations. And the work does not end once an immediate crisis is allayed. Long after the event, the trauma of a disaster continues to affect individuals and communities. Through partnerships with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the University of Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps, and local counties, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) develops essential trainings and resources to help health professionals better support communities in crisis and assist as they rebuild and recover.
Partnering with MDH for improved incident response
A collaborative project between the Minnesota Department of Health and the School of Public Health, through its Centers for Public Health Education and Outreach, came about thanks to CDC funding. SPH is one of five schools nationwide to host both a Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC), which conducts investigations related to preparedness and response, and a Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (PERLC), responsible for training the public health workforce. The coexistence of these two centers within one organization, under the leadership of SPH associate dean Dr. Debra Olson, has helped create an environment where research translates directly to practice. The strength of the practice component would not have been possible without the health department. “The SPH and MDH partnership allows us to combine academic and [on-the-ground] expertise to identify potential best practices in a real-world setting,” says Mr. Mickey Scullard, planner at the Minnesota Department of Health who serves as co-lead investigator on SPH grant-funded projects. One of the challenges MDH has identified is that leadership trainings designed for fire and rescue teams don’t always meet the needs of public health officials, whose typical work environment differs vastly from the demands of a crisis scenario. “In public health practice,you spend a lot of time building consensus and coming to an agreed upon solution…,” says Mr. Scullard. “[During emergency response], you are suddenly put into a hierarchical situation [the incident command system] that has a somewhat military approach to it, and you have to make fast decisions based on incomplete information.” A training currently in development will help address this challenge. It will complement existing FEMA trainings and improve the application of the incident command system in public health responses. Additional resources developed through the partnership include a course, now being converted for e-learning, focused on improving team functioning called Moving Beyond HSEEP*. Principles from the course have been used in other trainings, including the Disaster Behavioral Health series. Another product resulting from the joint research project is Global Outbreak, an online simulation game designed for public health professionals who fill planning, operations, and logistics chief roles during responses.
To read about how Minnesota is joining forces with experts in the field, and moving beyond the burden of disaster, please read the full article: http://sph.umn.edu/emergency-preparedness-partnership/