July 19, 2010

Forum focus is disaster response

Academic institutions have numerous resources — including health care, faculty, and student personnel and expertise — that can be deployed in response to public health disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake. But how can they work most efficiently with government public health agencies and non-governmental organizations?

An upcoming conference at Emory will explore the symbiotic relationship that, with proper planning, could turn these diverse institutions into a powerful public health response team.

This invitation-only conference, “Disaster Response Utilizing Academic Institutional Resources,” July 27-28 at the Emory Conference Center, will bring emergency preparedness and response officers from Southeastern universities together with local, state and government public health representatives. The groups will define opportunities and capabilities, develop joint strategies, explore research and educational needs and educational, and develop best practices.

“Academic institutions have a great deal to contribute in preparing for and responding to major public health disasters, as evidenced by the tremendous response in Haiti,” says James Hughes, director of the Emory-led Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, which is co-hosting the conference. “But we need to further explore how universities such as Emory, which also is an academic medical center, come to the forefront in preparedness and response and how we can best create sustainable relationships and response mechanisms with government and non-government groups.”

Other conference sponsors are the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR); and the Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC) at the Rollins School of Public Health.

The day preceding the conference, Emory CEPAR Executive Director Alex Isakov will host a workshop sponsored by PERRC aimed at examining the relationships between health departments and academic institutions, as well as ways to build and sustain successful partnerships over time.

“Academic institutions can contribute significantly to sustainable community preparedness and response systems when they are oriented to the needs of their neighbors and properly interfaced with the public health system,” says Isakov.

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