First Steps: A Pilot Preparedness Program for Public Health Nurses

Public health will face major challenges in the coming decades. The 1999 West Nile outbreak in New York City and other recent incidents demonstrate how important public health is as a frontline defense against emerging infections, bioterrorism, and other unexpected emergencies. A well-prepared public health workforce is more critical than ever. The challenges are particularly great in urban areas, which traditionally serve as ports of entry, may be appealing targets to terrorists, and have large and diverse populations with complex health risk factors. To better prepare the public health workforce to carry out routine functions effectively and fulfill the additional roles required in emergencies, a national network of “Centers for Public Health Preparedness” has been established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The network currently includes seven academic Centers funded through a cooperative agreement with the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). Goals include the development of competency-based public health practice courses primarily designed to utilize distance-learning technology (such as World Wide Web-based instruction) that can be implemented locally and replicated nationally. The Center for Public Health Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, is working toward these goals in partnership with the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH).