OLYMPIA -- As concerns over bioterrorism and other public health crises continue to plague U.S. communities, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) has recognized Thurston County for significant improvements in its ability to respond to public health emergencies. Thurston County was one of 11 local public health agencies recognized nationwide as completing the requirements of Project Public Health Ready.
Thurston County underwent reviews conducted by Project Public Health Ready, a first-of-its-kind partnership program developed by NACCHO with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Columbia University Center for Public Health. Project Public Health Ready was established to help define local public health preparedness and develop a standard set of goals by which preparedness could be measured.
Thurston County Commission chairman Diane Oberquell says, "We are proud to have been recognized by Project Public Health Ready for our high level of preparedness. We will continue to improve our ability to quickly and effectively respond to any public health crisis in this area including the 5-county homeland security region 3. This effort on the health preparedness side fits in very well with our overall goal to be ready for all of the kinds of disasters and emergencies that can happen here."
To gain recognition, Project Public Health Ready required Thurston County to achieve goals in three key areas: preparedness planning; individual worker competence; and demonstration of readiness through drills and exercises. The recognition confirms that Thurston County has an emergency response plan in place, the plan is appropriately connected to other emergency response plans, agency staff members are trained, and the plan is exercised and used during public health and other community emergencies. Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Director Sherri McDonald says the plan allowed a swifter and more coordinated reaction in a recent situation. "In fact, the department recently used the plan to investigate a dangerous communicable disease situation. Using the public health response plan allowed us to clearly define roles and responsibilities within the Department and quickly mount an appropriate response."
Other agencies recognized are:
Allentown City Health Bureau - Allentown, PA
Berkeley City Public Health Department - Berkeley, CA
Cerro Gordo County Public Health Department - Mason City, IA
Kansas City Health Department - Kansas City, MO
Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services - Rockville, MD
Seminole County Health Department - Sanford, FL
Tarrant County Public Health Department - Fort Worth, TX
Tulsa City-County Health Department - Tulsa, OK
Needham Health Department - Needham, MA
Winnebago County Health Department - Rockford, IL
"NACCHO commends Thurston County on its preparedness for a public health emergency," said Patrick Libbey, executive director of NACCHO. "Thurston County has helped to establish a model for ensuring complete public health emergency preparedness for the citizens of our country."
Local public health agencies that sought recognition underwent an evaluation process that included reviews by peer agencies and by three members of the Project Public Health Ready Oversight Council. The Council consists of eight local health officials and organizational liaisons from the Association of Schools of Public Health, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association for Local Boards of Health, the National Environmental Health Association, and the Public Health Foundation. NACCHO, CDC, and Columbia University Center for Public Health staff assist the Oversight Council.
For more information on the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, go to- http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/welcome.html
For more information on Project Public Health Ready, go to www.naccho.org/project83.cfm.