Improving Outbreak Response Preparedness: Epi-Ready and the Value of In-State Trainings in Kentucky

Investigating and responding to enteric disease outbreaks is complex and responding early and engaging multidisciplinary teams improves outbreak response. OutbreakNet Enhanced (OBNE) provides support to state and local health departments to improve their capacity to detect, investigate, control, and respond to outbreaks. Many jurisdictions, including some that are part of OBNE, have successfully used Epi-Ready trainings to foster multidisciplinary collaborations and build response skills for their public health teams.

In 2015, staff from the Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) attended an Epi-Ready training provided by the Tennessee Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (CoE). Knowing that other public health staff in Kentucky would find Epi-Ready valuable, KDPH partnered with the Tennessee CoE to plan and conduct multiple trainings across their state.  The trainings were well-attended and popular among public health staff.  To expand the training opportunities to more staff members, the Tennessee CoE trained smaller groups in Kentucky with the Epi-Ready Train-the-Trainer course starting in late 2017.  After completing the Epi-Ready Train-the-Trainer course, staff in Kentucky began conducting trainings themselves.

By the end of 2019, 25 state and local health department staff completed the Train-the-Trainer course, creating an entire team of in-state trainers. As a result, KDPH has continued to offer trainings, which have reached over 350 state and local health department staff members. In response to the positive feedback from attendees, KDPH plans to continue providing Epi-Ready trainings several times each year to maintain the enhanced outbreak response capacity they have built and to train new staff.

Three scientists looking at you.
What is Epi-Ready?

Epi-Ready, is a two-day, in-person, team-based training course for investigators of foodborne illness outbreaks. The course elaborates on the roles and responsibilities of the disciplines involved in an investigation, focusing on laboratorians, epidemiologists, and environmental health specialists. Epi-Ready uses a team-based approach for the added benefit of strengthening and reinforcing relationships and communication between team members by bringing them together for the training.

Through these trainings, KDPH has improved participants’ understanding of the role of each discipline involved in enteric disease outbreak investigations and response. Consequently, staff reported feeling more confident in their skills to better respond to foodborne, waterborne, and other enteric disease outbreaks, as well as improving their internal communication during outbreak-related activities.

One participant said, “Very thorough training. [It] better equipped and prepared me for what to do (or not do) when I am involved in an outbreak investigation.”

Another person said, “Learning about the different aspects of an outbreak investigation helped me [to] understand beyond just my part of the investigation.”

KDPH staff have also been vital partners in evaluating Epi-Ready, the impacts of the training, and to give real-world feedback to improve future versions of Epi-Ready. In collaboration with the Tennessee CoE, KDPH has demonstrated how team-based outbreak trainings, like Epi-Ready, can strengthen the response capacity of a public health workforce. With their continued commitment to training, KDPH is prepared to respond quickly and collaboratively to control outbreaks and help keep people from getting sick.