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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Health Departments' Engagement in Emergency Preparedness Activities: The Influence of Health Informatics Capacity

Gulzar H Shah, Bobbie Newell, Ruth E Whitworth
International Journal of Health Policy and Management 2016 April 30, 5 (10): 575-582
27694648

BACKGROUND: Local health departments (LHDs) operate in a complex and dynamic public health landscape, with changing demands on their emergency response capacities. Informatics capacities might play an instrumental role in aiding LHDs emergency preparedness. This study aimed to explore the extent to which LHDs' informatics capacities are associated with their activity level in emergency preparedness and to identify which health informatics capacities are associated with improved emergency preparedness.

METHODS: We used the 2013 National Profile of LHDs study to perform Poisson regression of emergency preparedness activities.

RESULTS: Only 38.3% of LHDs participated in full-scale exercises or drills for an emergency in the 12 months period prior to the survey, but a much larger proportion provided emergency preparedness training to staff (84.3%), and/or participated in tabletop exercises (76.4%). Our multivariable analysis showed that after adjusting for several resource-related LHD characteristics, LHDs with more of the 6 information systems still tend to have slightly more preparedness activities. In addition, having a designated emergency preparedness coordinator, and having one or more emergency preparedness staff were among the most significant factors associated with LHDs performing more emergency preparedness activities.

CONCLUSION: LHDs might want to utilize better health information systems and information technology tools to improve their activity level in emergency preparedness, through improved information dissemination, and evidence collection.

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