A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Best Practices for Preparing Communities: Citizen Engagement in Public Health Planning


Best Practices for Preparing Communities: Citizen Engagement in Public Health Planning

Investigators: 

Project Details

Abstract: 

This project employs group-process methods to produce guidance for leaders on actively engaging citizens in public health emergency planning, with an emphasis on bioterrorism.  Final guidance reflects evidence obtained by review of relevant literatures as well as the experience, professional judgment and recommendations of a cross-disciplinary task force.

Primary Findings: 

Researchers explored the question "what is the value of active collaboration with citizens and civil society groups in preparing for, responding to and recovering from an extreme health event, such as bioterrorism?" The study concluded that such partnerships will enhance officials' ability to govern in a crisis, improve application of communal resources, and help reduce an event's social and economic costs. The civic infrastructure - people who live, vote, play, work and worship together - should be involved in emergency planning and act before, during and after an event. Civic groups, for example, can help officials decide in advance who gets scarce medical resources, give aid when the professionals cannot be there, and comfort survivors over time.

Methodology: 

Researchers reviewed a series of relevant literatures including: social research into hazards, disasters, and epidemics; the theory and practice of public participation and deliberative democracy; and the medical and public health management of extreme events including pandemic influenza. In addition, they conducted guided discussions and formal elicitation from experts and practitioners who comprised the project's Working Group on Community Engagement in Health Emergency Management Planning including: decision makers at local and national levels of government; public health officials who had responded to high-profile events; heads of community-based partnerships for public health and/or disaster mitigation; and subject matter experts in civic engagement, community development, risk communication, public health preparedness, disaster management, health disparities, and infectious diseases.

Timeframe

Project Period: 
May 2005 to May 2008