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Assessing Public Health Department Employees' Willingness to Report to Work During an Influenza Pandemic

Basta, Nicole E.; Edwards, Sharlene E.; Schulte, Joann

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September-October 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 5 - p 375–383
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181a391e2

Objectives During an influenza pandemic, public health employees will play a significant role in implementing community response and control protocols. We aimed to determine how informed health department employees are about pandemic response and how willing they are to report to work during a pandemic.

Methods We conducted an anonymous, electronic survey of 4 746 Florida county health department employees to assess willingness to respond.

Results Among the 2 414 respondents, willingness to report to work varied by the stage of the influenza pandemic and type of job duties, from 92.3 percent willingness given the lowest-risk scenario to 56.2 percent under the highest-risk scenario. Nurses and employees who had read one of the pandemic influenza plans were significantly more likely to be willing to respond.

Conclusions Nearly half of public health department employees are unwilling to report to work during the peak of an influenza pandemic when the public health response will be a vital component of pandemic containment and mitigation. In light of the current worldwide spread of novel influenza A (H1N1), there is an urgent need to better inform public health workers about their roles in pandemic response and to ensure that personal safety is a top priority.

The aim of this study was to determine how informed health department employees are about pandemic response and how willing they are to report to work during a pandemic.

Nicole E. Basta, MPhil, is an epidemiology PhD student at the University of Washington and a predoctoral research associate at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle. Previously, she was a Florida epidemic intelligence service fellow with the Florida Department of Health.

Sharlene E. Edwards, MPH, is the public health preparedness planner for Pinellas County Health Department, St Petersburg, Florida. Prior to her current position, she served as the Florida epidemic intelligence service fellow assigned to Polk County Health Department.

Joann Schulte, DO, MPH, is a medical officer at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and oversees a Phase III clinical trial, evaluating efficacy of a candidate vaccine for genital herpes. Before joining NIH, she spent 15 years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a medical epidemiologist.

Corresponding Author: Nicole E. Basta, MPhil, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Box 357236, Seattle, WA 98195 (

Disclamer: The findings and conclusions in this report have not been formally disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.

The authors recognize the support of the leadership of the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), the FDOH Bureau of Epidemiology, and the participating county health departments. In particular, the authors thank Dr Richard Hopkins (FDOH Bureau of Epidemiology), Dr Youjie Huang (FDOH Bureau of Epidemiology), Bo Yu (FDOH Bureau of Epidemiology), Midge Grant (FDOH Bureau of Human Resources), Xiaoping (Jimmy) Jin (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases/National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases [CDC/CCID/NCIRD]), and Jufu (Jeff) Chen (CDC/CCID/NCIRD) for their technical support.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.