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Characteristics of Kentucky Local Health Departments That Influence Public Health Communication During Times of Crisis: Information Dissemination Associated With H1N1 Novel Influenza

Howard, Alex F. MPH, ATC; Bush, Heather M. PhD; Shapiro, Robert M. II MALS; Dearinger, Angela MD, MPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: March/April 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 169–174
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31821c08ee
Research Brief Report

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of selected characteristics of local health departments (LHDs) in Kentucky with the receipt of information by external stakeholders, specifically physicians and pharmacists, during the initial H1N1 outbreak of 2009.

Methods: This study utilized a cross-sectional survey to gather characteristic information from local health departments. In addition, cross sectional surveys of physicians and pharmacists were used to determine information receipt. All 54 LHDs in Kentucky were surveyed; however, only those physicians belonging to the Kentucky Family Physician Association or the Kentucky Ambulatory Network were surveyed. Also, pharmacists included in this survey were members of the Kentucky Pharmacist Association. Descriptive data analyses, including chi-square test of independence, were conducted, and generalized estimating equations were used to calculate odds ratios to depict associations related to information exchange in this study.

Results: Response rates for the study were as follows: LHDs 65% (35/54), physicians 18.5% (96/518), and pharmacists 21.1% (211/1000). Of the 35 participating LHDs the most common characteristic identified was the presence of a public information officer (PIO) and a pandemic influenza plan, 76% and 64%, respectively. Despite these factors, 72% of external stakeholders did not receive any information regarding H1N1 from the LHD. Generalized estimating equations also indicated that stakeholders in jurisdictions lacking a PIO had 6 (95% confidence interval, 1.3–26.95) greater odds of not receiving information from the LHD. External stakeholders in jurisdictions without a pandemic influenza plan had 3.38 (95% confidence interval, 0.80–1.17) increased odds of not receiving information but this association was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: Observations from this study indicate a need to improve information exchange between LHDs and their external stakeholders, specifically physicians and pharmacists. Present results suggest the designation of a PIO may positively influence communication between LHDs and other health care providers, particularly physicians.

This study aims to investigate the association of selected characteristics of local health departments in Kentucky with the receipt of information by external stakeholders, specifically physicians and pharmacists, during the initial H1N1 outbreak of 2009.

College of Public Health (Mr Howard and Dr Dearinger), Department of Biostatistics, College of Public Health (Dr Bush), Chandler Medical Center Library (Mr Shapiro II), and College of Medicine (Dr Dearinger), University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Correspondence: Alex F. Howard, MPH, ATC, University of Kentucky, College of Public Health, 111 Washington Ave, Suite 212, Lexington, KY 40536 (afhowa3@uky.edu).

We thank the staff and faculty at the University of Kentucky, particularly those in the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research. A special acknowledgment is extended to Dr F.D. Scutchfield, Mrs Cynthia Lamberth, and Mrs Sarah Wilding.

Financial Disclosure: There are no financial disclosures for the present study.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.