Differing expectations for D.C.’s H1N1 response analysis

October 16th, 2009 by Clark Lee

The novel H1N1 (swine) influenza presents a new threat to public health and safety that provides excellent opportunities for CHHS to work in both health and homeland security simultaneously with old and new clients.

One such opportunity arose recently when the District of Columbia Department of Health contracted CHHS to assist in its after-action reporting of D.C.’s public response to the spring 2009 H1N1 outbreak.  This project was challenging in large part because it required working closely with two groups of professionals with inherently conflicting modi operandi:

1. public health professionals who value thorough analysis and accuracy; and

2. emergency responders who value timely action and efficiency.

The worlds of public health (“Health”) and emergency response (“Homeland Security”), and the natural tensions between them, collided as D.C. health officials, epidemiologists, public health laboratory personnel, emergency managers, emergency responders, and other partners in the public and private sectors worked together as participants in D.C.’s public response to the spring 2009 H1N1 outbreak.  These tensions also became evident as the after-action report came together and themes started to emerge from the observations, complaints, and reports on which the after-action report was based.

CHHS and its growing staff of professionals from the fields of law, policy, emergency response and management, medicine, and public health are primed to work effectively in environments rife with the tensions between the worlds of public health and emergency response to achieve common goals related to preserving and protecting the public’s health and homeland security.

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