The North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) has launched a real-time assessment tool to provide local health departments with a rapid means to assess their preparedness capabilities and readily access top-tier resources. In a recent pilot, local health departments from 15 states were able to complete their assessments in 10 minutes or less, receiving an instant “snapshot” report of vetted resources and trainings. The majority of local health departments found the new Public Health Emergency Preparedness Capabilities Assessment Tool (PHEP CAT) to be useful and relevant to strategic preparedness planning and quality improvement, as well as staff training, information sharing, and accreditation requirements.
NCIPH developed this tool to support local planning and training needs assessment, particularly in areas where ongoing challenges to statewide assessments and tools to support immediate access to resources may exist. To generate the customized report, local health departments select their capabilities of interest and review a set of functional elements for each capability. Once completed, the PHEP CAT generates an electronic report, which is also emailed, with recommended practices, resources, and trainings relevant to identified needs. The tool is designed for repeat use, allowing agencies to use it more than once to assess different needs and/or needs at different points in time.
In collaboration with NACCHO, this project has integrated a portfolio of top-tier resources, vetted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NACCHO, and the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), identified to assist local health departments in meeting select CDC public health preparedness capabilities. The PHEP CAT currently offers top resources for five priority capabilities – Community Preparedness (1), Information Sharing (6), Medical Countermeasure Dispensing (8), Medical Materiel Management and Distribution (9), and Public Health Surveillance and Epidemiological Investigation (13) – with the intent of fulfilling the remaining capabilities in the coming year. Further stages of the tool will also include adding nationally recognized preparedness competency sets such as the CDC/ASPPH Public Health Preparedness & Response Core Competencies model and the CDC/CSTE Competencies for Applied Epidemiologists in Governmental Public Health Agencies.
Development of the PHEP CAT was initially supported by research funding from CDC as part of the NC Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (NCPERRC). As this research is translated into a practical tool, support is provided through UNC’s Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center’s (UNC PERLC) program. This new tool provides LHDs with the ability to quickly assess their needs and readily access vetted public health preparedness and response practices, trainings and other resources.