Meals on Wheels as a Response Partner
During public health emergencies there are many individuals with access and functional needs who may have difficulty retrieving life-saving medical countermeasures (MCMs) at response sites such as public points of dispensing (PODs). Some local health departments (LHDs) have successfully partnered with home service provider agencies, such as Meals on Wheels, to directly deliver MCMs to home bound individuals during emergencies. Beyond just MCM responses, partnering with these agencies can help local jurisdictions provide home bound individuals with routine and emergency public health communications. This collaboration can also help determine which residents may need additional assistance when evacuation or shelter-in-place orders are issued.
Meals on Wheels Planning Guide
To provide standardized considerations and partner practices for public health planning with local Meals on Wheels chapters, the Oakridge Associated Universities (ORAU), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Meals on Wheel Planning Guide. The Guide includes two audience-focused products:
- Outreach brochure for local health departments to partner with Meals on Wheels chapters
- Planning guide for the local Meals on Wheels’ contacts to develop MCM response plans
Planning topics covered in the Guide include:
- Liability and agreements;
- Notification and activation;
- Medication recipient considerations;
- Delivery and dispensing;
- Medication handling and management;
- Volunteer considerations; and
- Delivery route planning, security, communications, and deactivation.
Local Health Department Perspectives
As an additional resource, NACCHO held a webinar on July 12, 2016, to provide an overview of the Meals of Wheels Planning Guide. The presentation also included local insight from two LHDs, Frederick County Health Department (Maryland) and Portland Oregon Metropolitan Region Health Department, currently partnering with Meals on Wheels to support their preparedness training. Representatives from each LHD shared promising practices and lessons learned as a result of their collaborative efforts.
Rissah Watkins, Epidemiologist and Strategic National Stockpile Coordinator for the Frederick County Health Department, provided important advice for getting the partnership started.
“[The structure of] Meals on Wheels is extremely varied throughout [our] country. There are places where it is a government entity, private company, or solely volunteer based, so it is important to be aware of the type of chapter [your LHD] is dealing with at the start your planning process. If you don’t already have an existing partnership, the Outreach Brochure is a great tool to just start that ball rolling and get everyone familiar with each other.”
Adrienne Donner, Senior Regional Program Coordinator for the Portland Oregon Cities Readiness Initiative, emphasized the value of using Dispense Assist for medication screening when serving Meals on Wheels populations and other closed POD push partners.
“[Dispense Assist] is an online screening tool that can greatly increase your throughput and decrease your errors. Our push partners like it because they do not have do the somewhat complex [medication] screening process [themselves].”
Both presenters also shared their local approach in terms of requirements for Meals on Wheels partnerships, as well as planning and response strategies for allocating Meals on Wheels during an emergency. In addition to local insight included in this webinar, best practices and guidance from other health departments facilitating similar collaborations with the Meals on Wheels are available in the Planning Guide.
Accessing the Planning Guide and Webinar
To access the Meals on Wheels Planning Guide and the webinar slides and recording, click here. If you want to provide feedback on the Guide or have any questions, please contact Raymond Puerini.