Just this summer alone, Americans have faced multiple public health threats, including the Zika Virus, west coast wildfires, and most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. As one of the first lines of defense protecting U.S. communities from emergencies and other major health risks, now more than ever, it is critical that local health departments (LHDs) have the capacity to effectively respond.
In commemoration of National Preparedness Month, NACCHO is highlighting key resources and best practices designed to better equip LHDs to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. Every week throughout the month of September, NACCHO will post a new feature blog promoting tools, programs, and/or model practices that can help LHDs, better engage their staff, partner agencies, and community members to be informed, ready, and resilient in the event of a disaster or emergency event.
NACCHO’s emergency preparedness recognition program, Project Public Health Ready (PPHR) is an ideal resource for LHDs seeking to bolster their preparedness and response capacity. Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PPHR recognizes excellence in emergency preparedness planning, training and exercises for local health departments across the country. The PPHR program provides health departments with a national standard which they can use to measure their capabilities and ensure they are effectively responding to an emergency or disaster. Health agencies (including regional and supportive response agencies) can apply for this prestigious recognition and NACCHO is the only institution that provides this national recognition.
PPHR offers a variety of valuable benefits to participating health departments. More specifically, successful completion of the recognition program allows agencies to:
- Demonstrate agency’s commitment to preparedness;
- Garner credibility and visibility through national recognition endorsed by CDC and NACCHO;
- Drive internal continuous quality improvement and build a culture of collaboration among LHD staff;
- Strengthen community and other stakeholder partnerships and increase confidence in agency’s preparedness capability;
- Demonstrate agency’s alignment with federal initiatives; and
- Strengthen working relationships and improve integration within the preparedness community by working with response partners to develop and enhance plans and processes.
With over 300 criteria elements, the PPHR application assesses local health departments’ plans, exercises and improvements strategies. Applications are scored by trained reviewers who are also local emergency preparedness planners and experts in their fields.
PPHR criteria are organized into three goals:
- All-hazards Preparedness Planning
- Workforce Capacity Development
- Demonstration of Readiness through Exercise or Real Event.
PPHR applicants are grouped into cohorts, often by their respective states (e.g., three agencies applying from New York State will be part of the New York State cohort). Each cohort has a ‘State Lead’ who guides applicants through the year-long process.
Participants find this cohort approach fosters opportunities for meaningful engagement with other agencies going through the same process. Additionally, the cohort model allows collective question and answers sessions during monthly conference calls. NACCHO staff are also available to provide technical support.
The majority of PPHR applicants say the time spent on developing evidence for the recognition criteria simultaneously initiates necessary plan updates, directly benefitting their agency’s preparedness strategy and procedures. Furthermore, the process allows agency staff within the preparedness department to become more familiar with plans, which also contributes to improving local health department preparedness as a whole.
NACCHO is currently accepting applications for the 2017-2018 cycle; the deadline to declare an intent to apply for 2017-2018 is October 31, 2017. To learn more about PPHR including eligibility, fees, and timeline, visit NACCHO’s PPHR website. Interested applicants can also contact NACCHO’s PPHR team with any questions, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local health officials, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit volunteers, and other partner stakeholders are highly encouraged to share all of their preparedness efforts, resources, and community engagement events throughout National Preparedness Month. Both LHDs and MRC Units are invited to take the NACCHO Preparedness Pledge, and submit an abstract for our upcoming 2018 Preparedness Summit. NACCHO also encourages LHDs/MRC units to share their Preparedness Month activities throughout September via social media. Each week during the month of September, NACCHO will highlight LHD/MRC Preparedness Month activity posts that tag NACCHO on Twitter (@NACCHOalerts) or on Facebook (@NACCHOhq) and use #NatlPrep. Click here for more about NACCHO’s 2017 National Preparedness Month activities and resources.