By Victoria Harp
CDC leads the nation in responding to public health emergencies, such as outbreaks and natural disasters. While the agency encourages the public to be aware of personal and family preparedness, not all CDC staff follow those guidelines. In an effort to increase personal preparedness as part of workforce culture, CDC created the Ready CDC initiative. Targeting the CDC workforce living in metropolitan Atlanta, this program recently completed a pilot within the organization and is currently being evaluated for measurable improvements in recommended personal preparedness actions. Ready CDC is co-branded with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov program, which is designed for local entities to take and make personal preparedness more meaningful to local communities. Ready CDC has done just that; the program uses a Whole Community approach to put personal preparedness into practice.
FEMA’s Whole Community approach relies on community action and behavior change at the local community level to instill a culture of preparedness. To achieve this with Ready CDC, the CDC workforce receives the following:
- The support needed to participate from their employer
- Consistent messaging from a trusted, valued source
- Localized and meaningful personal preparedness tools and resources
- Expertise and guidance from local community preparedness leaders
- Personal preparedness education that goes beyond the basic awareness level to practicing actionable behaviors such as making an emergency kit and a family disaster plan
Are you Ready CDC?
When the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response Learning Office conducted an environmental scan and literature review, as well as an inward look at the readiness and resiliency of the CDC workforce, the need for a program like Ready CDC emerged. Although CDC has highlighted personal preparedness nationally in its innovative preparedness campaigns, there have been no formal efforts to determine if or ensure that the larger CDC workforce is prepared for an emergency. After all, thousands of people make up CDC’s workforce in Metro Atlanta, throughout the United States, and beyond.
The public relies upon those thousands of people to keep the life-saving, preventative work of CDC going 24/7. When the CDC workforce has their personal preparedness plans in place, they should be more willing and better able to work on behalf of CDC during a local emergency. Research has shown that individuals are more likely to respond to an event if they perceive that their family is prepared to function in their absence during an emergency*. Also, the National Health Security Strategy describes personal preparedness in its first strategic objective as a means to build community resilience.
Local Partnerships for the CDC
Ready CDC intends to move the dial by using its own workforce to understand behaviors associated with preparedness, including barriers to change. This is the most intriguing aspect of Ready CDC for the local community preparedness leaders involved. Most community-level preparedness education is currently conducted at the awareness level. Classes are taught and headcounts are taken, but beyond that, there is no feedback or follow-up to determine if their efforts are leading to desired behavior changes. Ready CDC is currently measuring and studying the Ready CDC intervention and that has local community preparedness leaders around metro Atlanta very interested in its outcomes.
While CDC has subject matter experts on many health-related topics, CDC looked to preparedness experts in and around the Metro Atlanta community to help make Ready CDC a locally-sustainable intervention. After all, the best interventions are active collaborations with community partners**. Key community partners from the American Red Cross; Atlanta-Fulton County, DeKalb County, and Gwinnett County Emergency Management Agencies; and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency played ongoing and significant roles in developing the program content, structure, and sustainability needed for CDC’s Metro Atlanta workforce. CDC gets the benefit of their time and expertise while partners have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts are making a difference in and contributing to the resilience of their communities. Also, because of these great partnerships, one lucky class participant wins a family disaster kit courtesy of The Home Depot and Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Ready CDC is currently available to the CDC workforce in and around Metro Atlanta; however, efforts are underway to ensure that the broader CDC workforce is reached in 2015. For more information about Ready CDC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Barnett et al. 2009; Barnett et al., 2012; Parker et al., 2005 Barnett, D. J., Balicer, R. D., Thompson, C. B., Storey, J. D., Omer, S. B., Semon, N. L., . . . Links, J. M. (2009). Assessment of local public health workers’ willingness to respond to pandemic influenza through application of the extended parallel process model. PLoS One, 4(7), e6365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006365
*Barnett, D. J., Thompson, C. B., Errett, N. A., Semon, N. L., Anderson, M. K., Ferrell, J. L., . . . Links, J. M. (2012). Determinants of emergency response willingness in the local public health workforce by jurisdictional and scenario patterns: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 12, 164. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-164
*Parker, C. L., Barnett, D. J., Fews, A. L., Blodgett, D., & Links, J. M. (2005). The Road Map to Preparedness: a competency-based approach to all-hazards emergency readiness training for the public health workforce. Public Health Rep, 120(5), 504-514.
**Neuhauser, L., Kreps, G.L., & Syme, S. L. (2013). Community participatory design of health communication interventions. In D.K. Kim, A. Singhal, and G.L. Kreps, (Eds.), Health communication: Strategies for developing global health programs (pp. 227-243). New York: Peter Lang Publishers.