In 2003 through 2005, the California Statewide Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program developed an educational delivery system, through partnerships with six AHECs and state organizations concerned with emergency preparedness, to train for public health emergency preparedness the health professionals who practice primarily in the state's medically underserved areas. Four educational modules—General Emergency Preparedness, Bioterrorism, Chemical and Radiologic Agents, and Emerging Infections—were developed and delivered by a trained, multidisciplinary, community-based faculty. The authors discuss the organization, partnerships, curriculum, faculty, characteristics of trainees, outcomes of the program, effects for AHECs, and the evaluation used to commit the organization and program process to the intended program objectives during the two-year period.
Over 9,000 health professionals attended one or more of the 462 educational presentations. Approximately one third of attendees were physicians, and 82% of the learners were from sites that typically care for the underserved.
Important to the success of the program (which still continues in a revised form) were the types of partnerships, an orientation of the curriculum to all-hazards disaster preparedness, the delivery of educational sessions at clinical sites, and the increased capacities of community AHECs to facilitate continuing professional education. The challenges were the diminished role of a key partner organization, uncertainties within the funding agency, and the widespread geographic area to address.