'Community Immunity' Point of Dispensing Presentation
BACKGROUND: During a large scale disease outbreak or biological attack, Point of Dispensing (POD) sites are designed to pass out medications as fast and efficiently as possible to the public. Ensuring the public receives the prophylaxis in the required time frame is one of the most daunting tasks in emergency response. Recruiting churches and other organizations to help the POD process is essential for public health officials to reach their medication goals. Cheryl Murphy talks about “Community Immunity”, a website she helped developed that addresses many of the concerns and challenges when recruiting POD partners while providing concrete resources for public health officials to help address those issue.liability.
OBJECTIVE: Develop an exportable model to recruit, train and sustain volunteers to staff POD sites.
CHALLENGES: Knowing who to recruit as a private or closed POD partner can often be challenging for local health departments. The targeted organization must meet certain criteria and posses unique capabilities in order for the partnership to successful. Furthermore, sustaining these relationships with the identified partners is tasking for most agencies as local health departments are given more and more responsibilities with a trend of reduced funding. Getting the partnering organizations to take ownership of the planning and operations of their private or closed POD can be extremely difficult, as POD operations and planning are unfamiliar concepts to them.
SOLUTIONS: Cheryl encourages local health departments to recruit Faith Based Organizations and schools as their primary targets for private and public PODs. Not only can their facilities often be altered to handle POD flow, but these organizations are recognizable and easily identified in many communities by the public. Teaching the organizations to recruit and train their own volunteers help ensures the organization is taking ownership of their operations and makes for a more sustainable POD in the occurrence of an emergency, where lack of personnel will surely be an issue for most local health departments. Utilizing the Community Immunity website, local health departments can provide concrete resources for their new POD partners, such a plan templates, floor plans and job-action sheets.
TAKEAWAYS: I was fortunate enough to see the Community Immunity project first-hand and all the hard work Cheryl spearheaded. It is a truly useful resources for local health departments. Some of its best features and concepts I like most:
- One of the top reasons organizations shy away from becoming a POD partner is the perceived stress and workload the organization is agreeing to undertake. I think Community Immunity does a fantastic job of laying out the content on its website to help organizations see the resources that are at their disposal. The website is directs the user to 'Health Department Resources', 'Open POD Partner Resources', 'Private POD Resources' and 'Volunteer Resources'. Each category clearly outlines a step-by-step process of what is required of them to be a successful POD partner. Having good content on a website is useful. But organizing that content so that does not overwhelm the user but rather drives them to the space you want them to go and helps them to their ultimate goal is even better. Community Immunity is a shining example of this.
- I love the fact Community Immunity embraces a marketing strategy with a 'non-government' feel. When recruiting POD partners, it can resemble a business 'sale'. Highlighting the benefit to the partnering organization is key to gain their trust. The organization will have the ability to continue its operations as normal as possible during this large scale event. There are various reasons being a POD partner is a good idea for an organization and marketing those reasons with some flair and classic marketing strategies is a strength of Community Immunity.
- Exercising is key to truly gaining an understanding of gaps in your POD operations. Developing effective exercises is often an overwhelming task for many health departments, and an unrealistic capability for most POD partners. A feature II like about Community Immunity is that it generates Homeland Security Exercise & Evaluation based exercises you can customize, alter and utilize. POD partners can access these exercises and ensure they are testing the necessary capabilities in order to find the gaps in their operations, adjust their plans accordingly and refine their future operations.
Drew Downing, MPH