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Current Research

The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response supports both individual research projects and research programs. A research project has a defined start and end point with specific objectives to meet in order to be complete. A program, on the other hand, establishes a group of related projects that are managed in a coordinated way, typically over a longer period of time, to achieve objectives.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Applied Research (PHEPRAR) Program

This program solicits contract proposals on innovative research based upon thematic topics generated and prioritized by state and local preparedness officials, CDC subject matter experts and preparedness leadership. In September 2017, seven innovative research projects were selected and awarded contracts for three-year project periods.

Information Management & Risk Communication

Effective Communication in Public Health Emergencies – Developing Community-Centered Tools for People with Special Health Care Needs (Drexel University)

Individuals with access and mobility challenges, chronic illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and other communication difficulties require targeted messages before, during, and after disasters to ensure that they fully appreciate the risks to their health and safety and can take measures to avoid harm. Investigators and collaborators will study the disaster communication needs of three understudied populations with unique preparedness and communication challenges. Each of these populations is at-risk for severe outcomes in the wake of disasters.

  1. Children with special health care needs
  2. Individuals of all ages with autism spectrum disorders
  3. Adults with the degenerative neuromuscular disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

The study aims to:

  • Determine how selected at-risk communities prefer to receive information in emergencies and disaster, including their preferred channels, formats, and information sources
  • Examine whether medical practices and social service organizations that serve these communities have the capacity for disaster communications, and how current electronic medical records and other technologies support urgent risk communication to at-risk patients or clients
  • Explore to what extent social media can be a useful channel to share information with at-risk communities during a public health emergency

Persuasive Communication about Risks from and Responses to Zika
(Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for Health Security)

This project will study the lessons learned from the Zika virus response in order to develop evidence-informed recommendations and provide strategic input, potential language, and communication approaches for senior health officials at the state and federal level to be used in future public health emergencies. Public health communication practices must be strengthened to improve public understanding, acceptance, and response during future infectious disease outbreaks. This can be achieved through improved insights into current communication efforts and messages, public knowledge, and public values relevant to the outbreak.

The study aims to:

  • Identify the critical and innovative Zika communication practices currently in use by federal, state and local public health departments
  • Examine what messages the news media provide about infectious disease risks and responses
  • Investigate public views on Zika controversies that may apply to future emergency response
  • Analyze how public values play into acceptance of and preferences about response activities
  • Study what messages resonate most effectively with the American public
  • Draw lessons from the Zika outbreak that can improve future emergency response

Incident Management

Recognizing Best Practices in Training and Exercises for Public Health Response Leadership in Incident Management and Public Health Communication (CNA Corporation)

This project will promote effective incident management and public health communication by highlighting best practices in training and exercises.

The study aims to:

  • Identify existing evidence on the effectiveness of current training and exercise methods for developing public health response leadership competencies in incident management and public health communication
  • Identify best practices from other fields that can be adapted for rapidly and effectively training personnel in domains outside of their usual roles to incident management at the response leadership level
  • Identify the necessary improvements, challenges to implementations, and potential resolutions for training and exercise delivery for enhancing public health response leadership competences in applying incident management principles
  • Identify the incident management functions in emergency response that should be prioritized for training and exercises among incident managers and response leaders
  • Identify novel methods, tools, and/or mechanisms to develop and deliver training and exercise programs for enhancing public health response leadership competencies in applying incident management principles

Community/Systems Resilience and Cross-Cutting Issues

Leveraging the Emerging Field of Disaster Citizen Science to Enhance Community Resilience and Improve Disaster Response (RAND Corporation)

The project will characterize the rapidly emerging field of disaster citizen science, develop a model for how citizen science may promote resilience and engagement in preparedness activities, and provide guidance to local health departments and community groups for working collaboratively on disaster citizen science initiatives.

The study aims to:

  • Explore the promise of disaster citizen science for increasing community resilience, enhancing participation in preparedness and response activities, and improving preparedness efforts
  • Develop educational and instructional tools for communities and health departments to navigate and facilitate the evolution of disaster citizen science into mechanisms for collaboration

Participatory Mapping to Identify and Support At-Risk Populations in Emergency Preparedness

(Harvard University)

The project will create a participatory mapping process of preparedness assets that can be used by communities, in partnership with local governments, to address the needs of vulnerable populations. Major deliverables will include a list of strategies for addressing population needs in preparation and response to an emergency, an App (iOS and Android) for mapping community assets, and a tabletop exercise to test the impact of the participatory mapping results on the decision-making process of local agencies engaged in preparedness planning efforts.

The study aims to:

  • Generate a list of strategies to address the needs of vulnerable populations by engaging community leaders in sharing their “local knowledge in preparedness”
  • Create a participatory mapping process to map assets in the communities that can be used to address the needs of vulnerable populations
  • Evaluate whether the availability of “local knowledge in preparedness” obtained from the applied participatory mapping process improves the quality of the decision-making process of public health officials responding to an emergency

Structuring Industry-Tuned Public-Private Partnerships and Economic Incentives for U.S. Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC)

The project centers around a fundamental question: How can emerging concepts in innovative public-private partnerships and incentive models be leveraged to encourage private sector engagement and partnership in public health preparedness and response-related activities, including systems integration between public health and commercial healthcare entities? A key deliverable of this project will be an evidence based “playbook” detailing partnership incentives and strategies that are most likely to be effective for building and sustaining partnerships.

The study aims to:

  • Develop a risk-sharing framework to provide actionable incentive program recommendations
  • Identify key gaps by leveraging secondary research and data collection
  • Identify key stakeholders to prioritize the mission areas and industry segments of interest
  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis to test specific hypotheses of findings

Determining Risks and Defining, Locating, and Reaching At-Risk Populations: A Research-based Risk Assessment and Mapping Tool (Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)

This project will conduct participatory research to develop a comprehensive methodology—and practical, software-based tool(s)—to empower local, state and national health agencies to identify, analyze, and depict health risks at the community level and enable the development of improved emergency plans, emergency response objectives and response capabilities that improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in public health emergencies.

The study aims to:

  • Determine how health and medical risk varies by hazard and geography
  • Determine hazard specific impacts to vulnerable populations
  • Develop a formula and methodology for assessing community based impact of 36 specific hazards on Public Health, Healthcare and Mental Health services
  • Develop a web-based Risk Assessment, Mapping and Planning (RAMP) Tool for assessing risk and developing emergency health and medical plans for jurisdictions in the United States

Other Applied Research Projects

Composite of Post-Event Well-being (COPEWELL): A Dynamic Model of Community Functioning and Resilience

The COPEWELL model provides a framework for understanding community resilience and predicting post-event functioning following disasters and other adverse health events. The model is a conceptual and computational tool that can be used in real word contexts to identify gaps in health security preparedness, identify resilience risk areas, inform mitigation strategies, and design and evaluate interventions that enhance resilience. The three-year 2017 contract to the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health extends research that OPHPR has supported since 2012. The current phase will build on lessons learned and evaluation findings obtained in earlier phases to continue evaluation, develop a production environment, and develop and roll out a self-assessment rubric tool.

Evidence Based Practices for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response: Assessment & Recommendations for the Field

In September 2017, a three-year research contract was awarded to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to conduct a comprehensive review and grading of existing evidence for public health emergency preparedness and response practices generated since September 11, 2001. NASEM will use published literature and available reports, public input and information gathering sessions, and original analysis to determine which of the Public Health Preparedness capabilities are critical to prioritize for inclusion in this systematic review. Topics that are important across capabilities but not sufficiently represented within the current set of PHP capabilities may also be included in the review. This study will focus on practices applicable to state and local public health preparedness and response programs and operations.

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