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Health Emergency Assistance Line and Triage Hub (HEALTH) Model

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.

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Chapter 10. Future Tasks

Our primary task is to persuade public health agencies that an established call center is the appropriate repository for this kind of capacity, and that making one-on-one communication available to the public during an emergency is to their advantage.

The CDC's Cooperative Agreement on Public Health Preparedness and Response for Bioterrorism requires State health departments to provide risk communication and health information to the public in case of an event. We believe that giving this service a dual use function (consistently using the service for routine communications on topical health issues, such as influenza or SARS, while maintaining capacity for service delivery during a large-scale emergency) is cost effective. We also believe that dual use strengthens the partnership between public health, health agencies, and the citizenry.

To maximize our surge capacity we must locate the funding to develop the multi-channel systems concept. After this has taken place, a Total Quality Improvement Plan could be developed.

Development and maintenance of a library of frequently asked questions and decision trees would be an essential future task. The content of this library could be shared with other call centers and agencies. Installing interactive voice response (IVR) would allow us to route callers to an audio library of the most popular FAQs, thereby saving staff time.

Mental health services and crisis counseling have been identified as needs of the public following events such as those of September 11, 2001. It may be appropriate to assess what role the public health emergency communications contact center might play in responding to this need; for example, conducting mental health assessments or referrals.

In the future, the development of the model for use in surveillance would be appropriate. During the smallpox application, vaccine adverse events were tracked for CDPHE and the CDC. During WNV, dead bird reports were collected to help State and local health agencies track the spread of disease through communities. The software that we have developed for knowledge management and data collection could be used as part of an early warning system to capture and report specific emergent events, such as clusters of toxic exposures, in real time to the State Health Department.

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