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Communication Efforts Among Local Health Departments and Health Care Professionals During the 2009 H1N1 Outbreak

Dearinger, Angela T. MD, MPH, FAAP; Howard, Alex MPH; Ingram, Richard MEd; Wilding, Sarah BSN, RN, MPA; Scutchfield, Douglas MD; Pearce, Kevin A. MD, MPH; Hall, Brad

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: January/February 2011 - Volume 17 - Issue 1 - p 45–51
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181f54110
Original Article

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the public health response to the emergence of influenza H1N1 by evaluating the effectiveness of communication between health departments, community physicians, and pharmacists in Kentucky during the initial H1N1 outbreak.

Methods: This study used a cross-sectional survey design to gather information from health departments, physicians, and pharmacists regarding information dissemination and receipt during the early H1N1 outbreak (April to July2009). Study participants included members of practice-based research networks in public health, primary care, pharmacy, and their partners.

Results: Ninety-five percent of participating local health departments (LHDs) reported that health care professional notification was a risk mitigation strategy initiated in their local jurisdiction, and 81% of responding LHDs rated their capacity to disseminate information to health care providers as very good or excellent. However, only 52% of surveyed physicians and 16% of surveyed pharmacists reported receiving any information about H1N1 from an LHD. Seventy-four percent of pharmacists were not aware of their LHD's emergency plan in the event of an influenza outbreak.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that deficiencies exist in the outreach and effectiveness of information dissemination efforts from LHDs to health care professionals during an influenza outbreak. Research that identifies improved methods for members of public health and health care systems to communicate and share information with one another is needed. An intervention focused on improving communication about infectious disease outbreaks and examining the impact of such an intervention would be useful and productive.

This study examines the public health response to the emergence of influenza H1N1 by evaluating the effectiveness of communication between health departments, community physicians, and pharmacists in Kentucky during the initial H1N1 outbreak.

College of Medicine and College of Public Health, University of Kentucky (Drs Dearinger and Pearce), College of Public Health, University of Kentucky (Messrs Howard and Ingram and Dr Scutchfield), Kentucky Department for Public Health (Ms Wilding), and Kentucky Pharmacists Association (Mr Hall), Lexington.

Correspondence: Angela T. Dearinger, MD, MPH, FAAP, University Health Services Building, 830 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40536 (angelatackett@uky.edu).

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.