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Release: Nov. 14, 2001

New UI center to strengthen Iowa's public health preparedness

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks continue to ripple across the nation, the need for a well-prepared public health workforce has grown increasingly evident. Heightened concern for potential chemical or biological attacks further drives home the importance of supporting a network of highly skilled public health personnel at the national and local levels.

In response to these needs, the University of Iowa College of Public Health has established the Iowa Center for Public Health Preparedness (ICPHP) through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Bioterrorism Preparedness Initiative. The center has received an initial grant of $162,000 from CDC, with plans to receive $500,000 grants for each of the next two fiscal years.

One of seven academic Centers for Public Health Preparedness located throughout the United States, the ICPHP places special emphasis on partnerships with agricultural and emergency management units. The center's mission is to ensure that Iowa's public health workforce has the skills to prepare for, promptly identify and respond to current and emerging health threats.

"This new center will serve as an important resource for upgrading the training and education of the state's health and emergency providers," said ICPHP director Christopher Atchison, UI College of Public Health associate dean for public health practice and associate professor of health management and policy. "Since Iowa is a leading agricultural state, the center is uniquely positioned to offer insight into issues such as crop and livestock safety. The state also has excellent laboratory facilities for coordinating veterinary and human health surveillance of possible bioterrorism situations."

The ICPHP is developing an eight-month train-the-trainer program that culminates in a certificate of public health preparedness. Approximately 60 public health professionals – including first responders, environmental health specialists, emergency management personnel, public health nurses, physicians, pharmacists, public health administrators, disease prevention specialists, extension service personnel, laboratory personnel, veterinarians and hospital personnel – will be recruited from five regions in the state to participate in the training program. Once the participants have completed the program, they will return to their own communities to assist with continuing training efforts.

The center's program partners include the Iowa Association of Local Public Health Agencies, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Emergency Management Division, Iowa Hospital Association, Iowa Medical Society, Iowa Nurses' Association, Iowa Pharmacy Association, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University Extension and UI Hygienic Laboratory.