July 24, 2009 By Blake Harris
I'm reminded of the old saying, what if they called a war and no one came.
We count on police and other emergency responders to show up in situations where most people simply wouldn't.
A new survey by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that approximately one in six6 public health workers said they would not report to work during a pandemic flu emergency regardless of its severity.
But that's actually good news. A similar study in 2005 conducted by the same research team found that more than 40 percent of public health employees said they were unlikely to report to work during a pandemic emergency.
"Employee response is a critical component of preparedness planning, yet it is often overlooked. Our study is an attempt to understand the underlying factors that determine an employee's willingness to respond in an emergency," said Daniel Barnett, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Overall, 16 percent of the workers surveyed said they would not report regardless of the severity of the outbreak."
The online survey was conducted among 1,835 public health workers in Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia from November 2006 to December 2007.
"We found belief in the importance of one's work was strongly associated with a willingness to report to work in an emergency. Our results could help preparedness planners to identify workforce needs and develop strategies for improving worker response," said co-author Ran Balicer, MD, PhD, MPH, senior lecturer in the Epidemiology Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and joint editor of the Israeli Ministry of Health Pandemic Preparedness Plan.
"This study is important in that it both documents the problem and points the way towards specific interventions -- those that increase both concern and confidence -- to increase willingness to respond," said Jonathan Links, PhD, professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the Public Health Preparedness Programs.
The study suggests ways for improving the response of the public health workforce. The results are published in the July 24 edition of the journal PLoS ONE.
Photo by Hitthatswitch. CC Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic.