Regional Trainings Expand Local Knowledge on Enteric Outbreak Investigations in New York

Photo of a woman training a room full of people.

When there’s an enteric disease outbreak, the public expects staff at local and state health departments to know how to investigate and respond to the situation. Public health professionals in New York are passionate about keeping people healthy. Staying current on best practices for conducting outbreak investigations is important to them.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) wanted to provide updated training for local health departments on enteric disease investigations, so they would be prepared for future outbreaks.

Where to start?

NYSDOH conducted a statewide needs assessment in March 2016 to learn more about what information would be helpful to local health departments. Results showed that staff wanted more training on the following topics:

  1. Legal issues related to outbreak investigations
  2. Writing outbreak reports
  3. Analyzing outbreak data
  4. Designing questionnaires
  5. Partnerships with relevant agencies and organizations
  6. The National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS)

NYSDOH staff began planning eight regional trainings based on results of the needs assessment. They used the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) toolkit and worked closely with the New York Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence to present current, useful information.

This is an illustration of the state of New York

Regional trainings

Beginning in March 2017, NYSDOH staff traveled around the state to facilitate eight trainings – two in each of its four public health regions. Each training lasted two days. The first day focused on content from the CIFOR toolkit and the second day addressed specific training needs and presented a ‘Day in the Life of an Enteric Disease Investigator.’ The facilitators also dedicated some time to discuss local health department questions.

NYSDOH used the resources it had from OBNE to provide in-person trainings that it wouldn’t have been able to provide otherwise. This format brought together local partners from epidemiology and environmental health.

Some of these partners had never met in person and appreciated the opportunity to network and strengthen their relationships.

“This is helpful having all the stakeholders in one room to discuss what works. Much needed.”

— Training participant

Continuing the conversation

After completing the last regional training, NYSDOH staff continued working to improve local enteric disease investigation efforts. Using feedback from the trainings, they have started projects such as updating the environmental health manual for outbreak response; creating a table-top exercise for future trainings; and creating a central repository for enteric disease investigation materials.

These activities will build on partnerships developed at the trainings to continue improving enteric disease investigation practices. The activities also will help ensure that local health department staff are prepared to respond to enteric disease outbreaks.

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