On Public Health Security - October 2015

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Preparing CDC Leaders for Future Public Health Emergencies:  The Incident Management Training and Development Program 


On Public Health Security
October 2015
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Stephen C. Redd

Dear Partners,

In the 30 plus years I have been at CDC, the agency’s role in preparing our nation for public health emergencies has grown tremendously. Our core focus on science to improve the nation’s health is unchanged, but the emergence of public health events requiring a coordinated agency response prompted us to build on our scientific base and become more skilled at managing and coordinating the challenges of large public health events, such as the H1N1 pandemic, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and most recently, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. These emergencies can necessitate a response enormous in scale, as we have seen with Ebola (3,817 CDC employees have contributed to that response as of October 5). So, we have to ask ourselves – are we managing these complex responses the very best we can? How can we learn from our partners to respond even better?

These questions led us to create a program to ensure we have well-trained and experienced leaders capable of handling the rigorous, multi-faceted demands within an incident management system (IMS). Working with offices throughout CDC and our partners, the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) formed a task force to develop the Incident Management Training and Development Program (IMTDP). The IMTDP is an agency-wide initiative aimed at strengthening CDC’s response capability to respond more quickly and effectively to public health emergencies. The goal of IMTDP is to design and implement a sustainable program to meet CDC’s IMS activation and response capabilities, including response leadership preparation.

The IMTDP task force recognized that identifying best practices applied by response partners is pivotal to the continuous improvement of CDC’s response leadership preparation. Over the summer, the task force was hard at work conducting interviews with response partners to gather insights on what works when it comes to better preparing and selecting response leadership for an IMS activation. Former CDC incident managers were also interviewed for insights on how to better prepare current and future response leaders. Additionally, we vetted preliminary recommendations with CDC response leadership on how to implement some of these best practices at CDC. Through discussions and focus groups, it became even more evident that institutionalizing a CDC-wide training and development program for response leadership is critical to CDC’s overall effort to be ready for the next emergency.

At the end of September, PHPR hosted Leadership Development Best Practices: Training for Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response, a two-day partner event focused on strengthening CDC’s response leadership capacity. Response partners from ASPR, FEMA, EPA, FDA, the United States Coast Guard and the Mississippi State Department of Health joined CDC response leadership to discuss and prioritize CDC strategies with regards to structure, selection, and preparation of response leadership. We had multiple presentations and breakout sessions to discuss CDC action steps and anticipated barriers while learning lessons about effective leadership development from our partners. Partners walked away with a better understanding of how CDC responds during a public health emergency. To our benefit, partners committed to support us on the journey to build a comprehensive response leadership training and development program and share training resources where appropriate. Convening and engaging our response partners early has proven to be essential to inform our internal training initiatives and consider inter-agency experiential learning opportunities.

Our next steps in moving the program forward are to develop a comprehensive curriculum for CDC’s response leadership, and to conduct a pilot training by the end of the year. I want to thank all of the partners and CDC staff who participated in the program’s development thus far. Your contributions will help us establish a leadership recruitment and training program that will strengthen the effectiveness of CDC’s responses, thereby enhancing our ability to protect the public’s health during emergencies, and we will continue to rely on you as the program develops. Additionally, we will look to find ways to share what we have learned with all of our partners, so that they can benefit as well. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at PHPRPartners@cdc.gov.

On another note, fall is upon us and it is time to prepare for flu season. With a few exceptions, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. For more information, please visit the CDC website. Please take the time to protect yourself and your loved ones, and encourage your colleagues and friends to do the same.


Thank you,
Stephen C. Redd, MD
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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