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Regionalization: Collateral Benefits of Emergency Preparedness Activities

Wetta-Hall, Ruth MPH, MSN, PhD, RN; Berg-Copas, Gina M.; Ablah, Elizabeth MPH, PhD; Herrmann, Mary Beth BSN, RN; Kang, Susan JD; Orr, Shirley MHS, RN, ARNP, CNAA; Molgaard, Craig MPH, PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September-October 2007 - Volume 13 - Issue 5 - p 469–475
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000285199.69673.04
Article

Introduction To assess the impact of regionalization of Kansas counties associated with emergency preparedness since 2002 via local health departments (LHDs).

Methods Three focus groups were conducted in May 2005 with 31 Kansas health department employees. Most participants were public health administrators, women, and 40 years or older.

Results Regionalization was perceived as “absolutely necessary” by participants and resulted in improved collaboration and communication among LHDs. The process supported the development of relationships, trust, and mutual respect among LHDs and other governmental agencies. Participants agreed that LHD functioning has improved the delivery and availability of public health services, increased the efficiency and timeliness of operations, and enhanced public health's visibility in emergency preparedness efforts. Moreover, regionalization added resources to LHDs including personnel, knowledge, technology, technical expertise, and fiscal resources. Dissatisfaction with regionalization was associated with insufficient funding, frustration with changing preparedness guidelines, and differences between state and local expectations. Participants identified four issues necessary to sustain regions: funding, documented benefits, commitment from LHDs and their communities, and engagement from local elected officials.

Discussion The regionalization process has been beneficial for LHDs and produced tangible and intangible benefits. Barriers to regionalization expansion should be addressed for additional collaborative ventures.

This study aims to assess the impact of regionalization of Kansas counties associated with emergency preparedness since 2002 via local health departments.

Ruth Wetta-Hall, MPH, MSN, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita.

Gina M. Berg-Copas is Senior Research Associate, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita.

Elizabeth Ablah, MPH, PhD, is Research Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita.

Mary Beth Herrmann, BSN, RN, is Director of the Pawnee County Health Department, Larned, Kansas.

Susan Kang, JD, is Policy Director, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Topeka, Kansas.

Shirley Orr, MHS, RN, ARNP, CNAA, is Director, Local Health, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Topeka, Kansas.

Craig Molgaard, MPH, PhD, is Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita.

Corresponding Author: Ruth Wetta-Hall, University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita, 1010 North Kansas, Wichita, KS 67214 (rwettaha@kumc.edu).

This focus group study was a capstone product for the Kansas Public Health Leadership Institute (Cycle II), a program that is jointly sponsored by the Kansas Public Health Workforce and Leadership Development (WALD) Center, the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and Kansas Health Foundation. This focus group study was funded in part by Kansas Association of Local Health Departments.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.