NACCHO Honors Local Health Departments: Exemplary Emergency Preparedness Model and Promising Practices

By Chelsea Gridley-Smith, NACCHO Program Analyst

By creating the Model Practice and Promising Practice Program, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recognizes the best local public health practices in the country. This initiative was designed to inspire continued innovation and highlight local health departments already making significant strides in the field. Through this program, local health departments are honored for developing innovative practices, resources, administrative processes, or tools, both exemplary and easy to replicate when addressing local public health need. To qualify as an agency with a model practice, local health departments must have an integral role in the initiative, which must be characterized by collaboration, innovation, responsiveness, evaluation of both the process and outcome, and overall sustainability. While, a local health department identified as implementing a promising practice employs a program or effort which exhibits the potential to become a model practice.

In 2016, 23 public health programs received the Model Practice Award and 34 programs received the Promising Practice Award. A committee of local health officials, who did not submit an entry, reviewed these programs. NACCHO’s Model Practices Database contains the full list of this year’s winners and previous model and promising practice awardees. Local health departments are highly encouraged to explore this database, as it provides a diverse set of evidence-based practice methods, as well as opportunities to share feedback on model and promising practices, and submit your own practice.

A Highlight of 2016 emergency preparedness model and promising practices

Multnomah County Health Department (Portland, OR)
Quad-County Measles Protocol and Toolkit Development (Model Practice)

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Facility-level clustering of unvaccinated students in the Portland, OR metro area prompted Multnomah County Health Department to develop a cooperative measles response protocol for public health agency use in the event of an outbreak at a school or daycare. The program utilized Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidelines, with emphasis on improvement planning, to achieve the two goals:

  • Develop a measles case report response plan via stakeholder input; and
  • Create an accessible and easy-to-use toolkit for local health department response to a measles case report or cluster.

Practice outcomes included a measles response protocol and numerous additional benefits, such as promoting regional consistency across multiple jurisdictions for a local measles outbreak response; preparing partners for what to expect in an event; assuring a realistic protocol through education and childcare partner involvement; and establishing new working relationships for all participants through cross-organizational work groups.

Tarrant County Public Health Department (Fort Worth, TX)
First Responder Infectious Disease Notification (Model Practice)

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The Tarrant County Public Health Department collaborated with other county departments to minimize potential exposure to infectious disease for first responders, prior to their arrival at the scene.The effort evaluated the critical steps in implementing a work plan for advanced notification of first responders. The six objectives of this practice were to:

  • Identify a trusted agent in each jurisdiction for relevant communications;
  • Disclose expectations and responsibilities of the health department and the trusted agent;
  • Communicate clearly about infectious disease monitoring activities;
  • Protect confidentiality;
  • Maintain compliance with federal and state disclosure laws; and
  • Create working partnerships.

A model was developed to share information, ensure confidentiality, and allow the first responder to be notified of a possible risk when responding to a call. Using this model is an invaluable tool to protect first responders from other high consequence infectious diseases.

Public Health – Seattle and King County (Seattle, WA)
Seattle/King County Clinic (Promising Practice)

Public Health – Seattle and King County sponsored and contributed to the highly successful Seattle/King County Clinic. The clinic is the largest free dental, vision, and medical care clinic in the country in terms of both patients served and diversity of services offered. The clinic also created an opportunity to test capabilities essential during an emergency, including providing medical care in a non-hospital setting; managing the logistics of setting up an alternate care facility; coordinating staff and volunteers; and ensuring access to care for our most vulnerable residents. Public health staff and volunteers were assigned roles they would fulfill in an emergency and received hands-on role-specific training.

Broward County Health Department (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Utilizing the Incident Command System to Successfully Contain a Pertussis Outbreak (Promising Practice)

The Department of Health in Broward County activated an Incident Command Team, utilizing the Incident Command System, a component of the National Incident Management System, to manage, track, document, and evaluate their response to a local health threat: pertussis. The three program objectives were to:

  • Coordinate the pertussis response activities of Broward County Health Department;
  • Minimize the spread of pertussis in the schools and day care centers; and
  • Provide the media and the public with accurate and timely information.

Implementing the Incident Command System, the multi-disciplinary incident management team achieved effective targeting, tracking and documentation of throughout the course of the initial five cases of vaccine preventable pertussis. This process ultimately led to halting the outbreak to spread throughout the community.

Oswego County Health Department (Oswego, NY)
Enhancing Strategic National Stockpile Drill through Involving Girl Scout Troops (Promising Practice)

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The Oswego County Health Department collaborated with the regional Girl Scout Troop and other partners in performing a series of annual strategic national stockpile drills to simulate real-live responses to an emergency. The program’s five objectives were to:

  • Build partnerships for public health preparedness;
  • Test capabilities to activate public health emergency operations in less than 60 minutes;
  • Organize inventory, pack, and re-distribute orders of the assets (i.e. Girl Scout Cookies);
  • Test security capabilities related to receipt and delivery of assets; and
  • Provide training for staff and volunteers; and coordinate volunteers from Girl Scouts and other county departments.

In the past three years, similar innovative approaches were implemented as a part of the local health department’s annual strategic national stockpile drills. As a result, the indented goals and objectives were achieved to build upon community preparedness and resilience.

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Each time a local health department submits effective evidence-based practice methods through the NACCHO Model Practice Program, that agency contributes to the overall improvement of public health. Furthermore, all Model Practices winners are recognized each year on the national platform, at the NACCHO Annual Conference Grand Awards Ceremony. Local health departments are highly encouraged to view the submission instructions and submit an application by November 30, 2016. View last year’s winners to learn more about NACCHO’s past Model Practice and Promising Practice awardees and their impactful advancements contributing to the field of public health.

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