June 12, 2008
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Communities rely on federal funding to help coordinate and plan across agencies and health care providers, conduct training and drills, recruit volunteers, and purchase equipment and stockpile supplies for a disaster, according to the study, supported by a grant from a special solicitation for Public Health Systems Research through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations Health Care Financing and Organization Initiative, which is administered by AcademyHealth.
"We found that communities have devoted significant time and effort to
improve surge capacity, but theyre worried about losing ground as times passes
since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina," said HSC Health Researcher Laurie E.
Felland, M.S., coauthor of the study with HSC Consulting Researcher Aaron Katz,
C.P.H., of the University of Washington; Allison Liebhaber, an HSC health research
assistant; and Genna Cohen, an HSC health research assistant.
The study examined community-level surge capacity development and variation across six communities: Boston; Greenville, S.C.; Miami; Phoenix; Orange County, Calif.; and Seattle. To place these communities perspectives in a broader context with communities that have faced large-scale disasters, interviews also were conducted with officials in New York City, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, as well as with national leaders. The findings are detailed in a new HSC Research BriefDeveloping Health System Surge Capacity: Community Efforts in Jeopardyavailable online at www.hschange.org/CONTENT/991/.
While federal funding has raised community awareness of the need for surge capacity and enabled communities to dedicate time to create plans, conduct drills, develop volunteer corps and purchase equipment and supplies, respondents reported that federal funding is fragmented and declining, making it difficult for communities to pursue a comprehensive surge capacity strategy.
Following an initial focus on intentional use of biological agents, federal funding became more flexible to respond to a range of potential emergencies, including manmade and natural disasters. Within this "all-hazards" approach, attention to a potential pandemic influenza has increased over the past year. Although respondents viewed the federal focus on pandemic flu as appropriate overall, in some cases funding restrictions preclude investment in risks and needs seen as important locally, according to the study. Communities are attempting to develop capacity that both supports day-to-day activities and prepares for a disaster.
Other key study findings include:
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nations changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.