Friday, January 04, 2008

Public Health Agencies Ready to Respond?

Updated 2008-01-10: Jimmy Jazz at In Case of Emergency - who understands public health issues much better than I do - examines this story in detail and discovers it's not as bad as I'd thought. To wit:

The average time it took to connect to an action officer was 63 minutes (range = 0 - 1,003). While this seems like a terribly long time (and it is) this average time was extremely skewed by insanely long times. The authors note that the mean of the median connection times (Read: the average of the middle length wait from each health department. For example, here are the connection lengths of five calls to the City of Samplia, 1 minute, five minutes, ten minutes, 90 minutes, 1,000 minutes - ten minutes is the median, so averaging the medians takes out the “oops, we forgot to connect you,” and the “hey, you got the action officer on the first call”) was only eight minutes.
The authors found found that nearly 40% of health departments failed to connect to a public health official on one or more of up to ten calls placed to the health agency. A better way to put it is that over 91% of all calls eventually made it to an action agent. Not perfect, but certainly much better than 40% not connecting at all.
Thanks, Jimmy!

(My original post below)

A brief note on a new study that found U.S. public health agencies slow to respond to reports of infectious diseases. NTI reported:
A recent study of 74 U.S. local public health agencies found that many failed to respond quickly — if at all — to reports of a potential disease outbreak, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

The RAND Corp had researchers pretend to be doctors and call randomly selected agencies to report cases of infectious diseases.

Two-thirds of the contacted departments failed to call back within 30 minutes. Almost 40 percent of the agencies failed to call back at all after receiving at least one call.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a public health expert respond within 30 minutes to any report of infectious diseases such as smallpox, anthrax or meningitis.
If two-thirds did not call back within 30 minutes, and almost 40 percent didn't call back at all, that's basically 100 percent that didn't meet the CDC recommendations, isn't it?


Jimmy Jazz said...


Thanks for the heads up. I'm going to download the original article from AJPH and hope to have comments up soon.


John Bowen said...

That's what I'm here for!

Looking forward to reading your thoughts, Jimmy.