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5th Annual Disaster Epidemiology Workshop emphasized innovations in the field

Posted By Ashley Conley, Thursday, May 22, 2014
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On May 14-15, 2014, 55 people gathered in Atlanta from state and local health departments across the U.S., along with representatives from CDC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the American Red Cross at the Fifth Annual Disaster Epidemiology (DE) Workshop. The CSTE workshop was also broadcast live via webinar. Approximately 60 people participated virtually via webinar. The theme of the workshop was “Innovations in Disaster Epidemiology,” which reflects how widely accepted DE is becoming as a part of the public health response to large-scale emergencies. The workshop was supported through a cooperative agreement with CDC and was co-sponsored by the Safe States Alliance (SSA) and NACCHO.

Dr. Sally Phillips, RN, PhD, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (acting) for the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) at DHS, was the workshop’s keynote speaker. She described the evolution of DHS’s role in addressing health issues related to homeland security, including biological and chemical defense; food, agricultural, and veterinary defense; planning and exercise support; health incidence surveillance; and state and local initiatives. Another major focus of OHA is the safety and health of the more than240,000 employees in DHS, which includes staff in FEMA, US Border Patrol, and many others. OHA has overseen a strengthening of biodefense efforts of the BioWatch Program and the National Biosurveillance Integration Center. OHA is also working on guidance for radiation and nuclear disasters and for chemical defense programs. Workshop participants had many questions for Dr. Phillips about how OHA and DHS interact with public health agencies at the state and local levels.

The workshop included the following five sessions:
  • Surveillance during Disasters: Innovations in the Use of Technology and Tools
    • E-Surveillance
    • Epi-Info Applications for DE
    • Utilizing Android Tablets for Data Entry in the Field
  • Social Media and DE: Innovative Approaches to Surveillance and Situational Awareness
    • Hurricane Sandy: Changing the Landscape of Social Media Strategies
    • Operation Dragon Fire
    • Tracking Deaths during Hurricane Sandy
  • Innovating Approaches for Disaster Response to Recent Events
    • Blast Injuries from a Massive Explosion in a Residential Area in Texas, 2013
    • Acute Health Effects Associated with the Elk River Chemical Spill in West Virginia, 2014
  • Emergency Management and DE—An Innovative Partnerships from One State’s Perspective (Alabama)
  • Establishing Innovative Partnerships for Conducting DE
    • Operational Biosurveillance in the National Biosurveillance Integration Center
    • Partnering with the American Red Cross in the Disaster Cycle
The CSTE DE Subcommittee provided an overview of its major activities and accomplishments during the last year. The webinar was recorded and will be made available soon on the webinar library.
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP is the chair of the Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee. She is an epidemiologist at the city of Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services in New Hampshire.
( Photo by Gil Talbot, courtesy of Saint Anselm College)
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP
Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services
New Hampshire

Tags:  disaster epidemiology  meeting summary 

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