Operationalizing Community Assessment Results to Enhance Preparedness for a Radiological Emergency : Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

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Operationalizing Community Assessment Results to Enhance Preparedness for a Radiological Emergency

Ferguson, Rennie W. DrPH, MHS; Barnett, Daniel J. MD, MPH; Kennedy, Ryan David PhD; Sell, Tara Kirk PhD, MA; Wieder, Jessica S. BA; Spannhake, Ernst W. PhD

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Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 28(4):p E711-E718, July/August 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001495



A radiological emergency such as the detonation of a radiological dispersal device would have catastrophic health, environmental, and economic consequences. Community assessments can provide useful information about radiological and other emergency preparedness at the household level. Tools such as logic models can be applied to link data collected in a community assessment to planned activities and targeted outcomes. This study sought to answer how public health departments can use the results of a community assessment to improve preparedness for radiological and other types of emergencies and to present a sample logic model demonstrating how questions asked in a community assessment can be used to drive intended outcomes.


Surveys were fielded in 2019 to professionals with experience in radiological emergency preparedness, state and local health and emergency management, and journalism. Questions included the role of health departments in radiological emergency preparedness, the operationalization of results from a community assessment for preparedness, and information sharing in a radiological emergency. Descriptive statistics and a modified framework approach were used for open-ended questions.


Nearly three-fourths of state/local officials reported that it would be at least somewhat difficult (73%; 11 of 15 state/local officials) for a local health department to operationalize the results of a community health assessment for radiological emergency preparedness. Potential barriers included competing priorities, lack of funds, and limited staff. Resources such as pretested communication materials, tailored messaging, and technical tools and training can assist health departments and emergency management agencies in using the information collected from a community assessment.


To address implementation challenges in operationalizing the results of a community assessment, officials can use tools such as logic models to illustrate how the information gathered from a community health assessment will create an intended preparedness outcome and to advocate for funds for this type of assessment.

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