PFA Response Work: Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico
Luis-Eduardo Torrens, MPH, a PFA assigned to the New Jersey Department of Health, was deployed to Puerto Rico in 2017 for 24 days to help address health impediments to hurricane recovery. His main tasks were to develop a public health recovery assessment of the most impacted areas and to draft proposals providing immediate environmental health resources to the communities most in need. In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he conducted health assessments and provided services to areas without running water. He also laid the groundwork for programs that assist communities with water disinfection technical assistance and acquisition of chlorine tablets.
Lastly, because of his experience working as a PFA in a state health department and his Spanish language skills, Luis-Eduardo served as the liaison to the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH)’s Division of Environmental Health. There he collaborated with the environmental health director to draft work plans for distribution of federal Hurricane Maria recovery relief funds awarded to PRDH. This role was pivotal in strengthening relationships among the partner organizations and building capacity within the department. By participating in this deployment, Luis-Eduardo learned the value of having local public health experience in a response. All responses are local, and while he was working at the federal level, the integration with the local health department allowed the federal response to better assist communities in need.
PFAs play a dynamic role in supporting state and local public health initiatives and responses. As integral members of the CDC public health workforce, PFAs utilize their knowledge and skill sets to drive action. PFA contributions are unique to their individual assignments. PFA Snapshots provide an opportunity for PFAs to share success stories.