By Tony Nguyen, Outreach/Communications Coordinator, NN/LM SE/A Region
I had the privilege to attend the Preparedness Summit, a national conference in the field of public health preparedness. This four-day annual event provides one of the only cross-disciplinary learning opportunities in the field designed to meet the growing needs of the preparedness community. At the conference, I met with Stacey Arnesen and Elizabeth Norton from the Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) and supported their exhibit. Additionally, I was able to learn about the resources available through DIMRC and attend some of the sessions at the conference in my free time.
The first seminar I attended was presented by DIMRC called “Where to Find: How to Navigate the Information Maze to Access Evidence-based Public Health Preparedness Information.” This 3.5 hour workshop was designed to help attendees identify and evaluate authoritative sources of information, locate gray literature using the Disaster Lit Database, utilize tools such as the A-Z topic pages on disasters and emergencies , and learn about the benefits of specific disaster and emergency preparedness apps.
One workshop I found particularly interesting was “Reaching Across the Great Divide: Fostering Dialogue Between Public Health Practitioners and Academic Institutions.” This was mostly related to Non-Profit Organizations partnering with Academic Institutions in order to better prepare a community in the event of a disaster. I was curious as to what methods were utilized to develop a partnership with a new organization. One speaker mentioned a 3-tiered approach where they probed the other institution to determine if a partnership was feasible, then they mapped out the potential benefits between both groups, and finally developed a mutually beneficial partnership between both organizations that would also benefit the community. Additionally, another speaker suggested that organizations consider past relationships, as they may lead to better implementation of new partnerships. In order to make meetings worthwhile, knowing what resources and ideas can be provided ahead of time can improve the dialog between organizations. What followed were demonstrations of tools developed from collaborations, one of which is the LEgal Network Analyzer (LENA), a project developed by the Public Health Adaptive System Studies (PHASYS). This is a software tool designed to assist with analyzing and comparing emergency statuses, regulations, and policies.
While I know it’s not feasible for many health information professionals to attend the Preparedness Summit, there are still ways in which you can become aware of and more involved in the event of an emergency. I would encourage you to participate in the Medical Library Association’s Disaster Information Specialization Program. For many individuals unable to attend classes in person, all of the Basic Level Courses requirements and many of the Advanced Level Courses are available for free at any time.
Overall, I found the Preparedness Summit an informative and positive experience. Speaking with many of the attendees at the DIMRC exhibit allowed me to test my knowledge as I demonstrated many of DIMRC’s resources and apps. Additionally, the sessions I managed to attend were beneficial in understanding the issues and potential solutions developed to address the needs of the community during an emergency or disaster. I thank DIMRC for the opportunity to learn from them first hand and participate at the Preparedness Summit.