Context: For academic institutions to meaningfully contribute to community-disaster preparedness and response, they must effectively collaborate with governmental public health and emergency management agencies.
Objective: To explore the opinions of leaders of public health and emergency management agencies and academic institutions regarding the facilitators for and barriers to effective collaboration for disaster preparedness and response.
Design, Setting, and Participants: We convened focus groups of leaders of state and local public health and emergency management agencies and academic institutions in conjunction with the 2010 Public Health Preparedness Summit and the 2010 Southeastern Center for Emerging Biological Threats Meeting. We employed a semistructured interview guide to elicit information about resources leveraged for community preparedness and response and perceived facilitators and barriers to engagement and on-going collaboration. Focus groups were transcribed verbatim. We performed thematic analysis of the transcripts employing a data-coding scheme based on emergent themes.
Results: Academic institutions engaged with public health and emergency management agencies in the provision of an array of resources for community-disaster preparedness and response, ranging from technical expertise to the conduct of training activities, workforce surge capacity, and facility sharing. Recognized barriers to engagement included unfamiliarity of organizational personnel, concerns about ownership of outputs resulting from the collaboration, and differences in organizational culture and modus operandi. On-going relationships through shared training of students and staff and participation in community-level partner meetings facilitated collaboration in disaster response as does having a recognizable point of contact that can comprehensively represent academic institutional resources. Legal issues were identified as both facilitators (eg, contracts) and barriers (eg, liability concerns) to engagement.
Conclusions: There are both recognized facilitators and barriers to effective and sustainable academic-community collaboration for disaster preparedness and response from the perspectives of leaders of public health and emergency management agencies and academic institutions.