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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Working with City and Local Health Departments

Examining the Relationship Between Public Health Departments and the Nongovernmental Sector to Support Partnerships for Effective Recovery for Vulnerable Populations

Applicant Institution: RAND Corporation

RAND, UCLA, and the University of Colorado, Denver partnered with the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to study how partnerships between community-based organizations (CBOs) and DOHMH changed as a result of Hurricane Sandy and whether communities with stronger partnerships recover faster. They found that new partnerships formed more often in communities with more severe damage, and that most partnerships formed after Hurricane Sandy were still functioning a year later. Organizations that participated in a Long-Term Recovery Committee reported having a greater impact on community recovery.

The findings from this study have been compiled into the Partnerships for Recovery Across The Sectors (PRACTIS) toolkit Exit Iconthat translates the lessons learned from this study into actionable guidance for local health departments, who can use the study to assess and improve their recovery partnerships with CBOs. The toolkit includes:

  • A sample survey and steps for fielding the survey to help LHDs identify the key CBOs that contribute to disaster response and recovery
  • A quality improvement guide and sample quality improvement report to help generate guidance about the strengths and weaknesses of the partnerships between LHDs and CBOs and between CBOs
  • A tabletop recovery exercise that can be used to improve the relationship between LHDs and CBOs. 

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assisant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Examining and Enhancing Public Health Workers’ Sense of Efficacy Toward Hurricane Sandy Recovery 

Applicant Institution: Johns Hopkins University

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that 30% of surveyed local health department workers lacked a sense of efficacy toward Hurricane Sandy recovery activities, and 20% reported that they lacked confidence in having a safe worksite or sufficient training to perform effectively during recovery from future disasters. This project aimed to understand the barriers and facilitators to local health department workers’ participation in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and to evaluate the impact of a training course (the Public Health System Training in Disaster Recovery- PH STriDR) designed to boost these workers’ sense of efficacy. The results are being used to update the PH STriDR curriculum Exit Icon.

This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Evaluation of Hurricane Sandy Public Health Response in New York State

Applicant Institution: New York State Department of Health

Researchers at the New York State Department of Health collected feedback from local health departments, emergency management, and a variety of public health service providers. The most cited strengths of local health departments were emergency operations coordination, information sharing, surveillance and investigation, and planning. Frequently cited challenges include environmental health protection, emergency operations coordination, community recovery, and information sharing. The researchers developed recommendations for improving disaster response, including:

  • Practice existing emergency response plans, including non-management staff
  • Improve shared emergency reporting between health departments and emergency management
  • Utilize web-based communication tools at remote sites
  • Explore options for alternate/mobile WIC (Women, Infant and Children) sites
  • Develop Memorandums of Understanding for shelter operations (nursing, laundry, food)

Learn more about this project in the following publication:

Shipp Hilts A, Mack S, Eidson MA, Nguyen T & Birkhead GS. (2015). New York State Public Health System Response to Hurricane Sandy: An Analysis of Emergency Reports. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2 December 2015 [Epub ahead of print].

This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Understanding the Health System Impact of the Spillover Effect After Hurricane Sandy

Applicant Institution: Columbia University

Through after action reports, focus groups, and key informant interviews with more than 50 regional public health staff and first responders, researchers from Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness examined the challenges faced by the Nassau and Westchester county public health departments before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy. They found that there were several surge capacity challenges involving the transfer of patients to and from hospitals, nursing homes, and special needs shelters. After identifying the needs of these public health agencies, the researchers provided disaster response trainings.

This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Visualizing Social Media: New Tools for Research and Practice

Applicant Institution: Columbia University

This research is ongoing. The project will provide ASPR, CDC, and NIEHS Sandy recovery science grantees with access to a geospatial query tool that will enable them to analyze location-based social media data related to Hurricane Sandy and other past disasters.  As part of this project, they will develop a web portal to provide social media training and resources to the grantees and to the public health community.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assisant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

  • This page last reviewed: March 10, 2016