Limited systematic knowledge exists about how public health practitioners and policy makers can best strengthen community engagement in public health emergency preparedness (“CE-PHEP”), a top priority for US national health security.
To investigate local health department (LHD) adoption of federally recommended participatory approaches to PHEP and to identify LHD organizational characteristics associated with more intense CE-PHEP.
National survey in 2012 of LHDs using a self-administered Web-based questionnaire regarding LHD practices and resources for CE-PHEP (“The Community Engagement for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Survey”). Differences in survey responses were examined, and a multivariate analysis was used to test whether LHD organizational characteristics were associated with differences in CE-PHEP intensity.
A randomized sample of 754 LHDs drawn from the 2565 LHDs that had been invited to participate in the 2010 National Profile of LHDs. Sample selection was stratified by the size of population served and geographic location.
Emergency preparedness coordinators reporting on their respective LHDs.
Main Outcome Measure:
CE-PHEP intensity as measured with a scoring system that rated specific CE-PHEP practices by LHD according to the relative degrees of public participation and community capacity they represented.
Survey response rate was 61%. The most common reported CE-PHEP activity was disseminating personal preparedness materials (90%); the least common was convening public forums on PHEP planning (22%). LHD characteristics most strongly associated with more intense CE-PHEP were having a formal CE-PHEP policy, allocating funds for CE-PHEP, having strong support from community-based organizations, and employing a coordinator with prior CE experience.
Promising ways to engage community partners more fully in the PHEP enterprise are institutionalizing CE-PHEP objectives, employing sufficient and skilled staff, leveraging current community-based organization support, and aligning budgets with the value of CE-PHEP to US national health security.