Preparedness is a core value of the Epidemiology Program, and as such, increasing epidemiologic capacity to detect and respond to sentinel or population health events through traditional and novel surveillance, and to increase readiness through multi-disciplinary training, planning and exercises are key focus areas.
In order to maintain readiness for an epidemiologic response, it is an Epidemiology Program priority to continually refine Quality Improvement/ Quality Assurance processes.These include improving business process efficiencies ranging from the receipt of Notifiable Disease reports to case management and outbreak investigation to participating in After Action Reviews following events of public health significance to ensure that personnel, policies and procedures facilitating effective epidemiologic response are in place.
The Epidemiology Program promotes clinician awareness of traditionally Notifiable Diseases and the importance of using the State Electronic Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (SendSS) reporting mechanism. In addition, the Program works to increase clinician awareness of diseases that are immediately notifiable to public health, and coordinates planning efforts with public health disciplines and agencies to ensure that surveillance mechanisms are in place to detect, control and contain naturally occurring diseases, or those resulting from human causes. The Epidemiology Program also coordinates the appropriate specimen testing of suspicious organisms with the Laboratory Response Network.
In addition to traditional surveillance mechanisms, the Epidemiology Program has relies upon novel surveillance data provided through various Syndromic Surveillance data sources to characterize sentinel and seasonal illness trends, to estimate the impact of natural or human caused disasters and accidents on the Georgia Healthcare System, and to characterize population exposures to organophosphates, and workplace injuries.
Planning, training and exercises are the foundation of preparedness, and the Epidemiology Program coordinates across public health disciplines and jurisdictions to ensure coordinated response planning for events of public health significance. Training initiatives aim to educate epidemiology staff about various plans, and potential response scenarios and the roles and responsibilities that would be necessary coordinate and conduct surveillance, as well as provide control and containment measures during an emergency response. Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) based exercises provide Epidemiology Program leadership and staff with opportunities to practice or rehearse scenario based response actions described in established plans and training, in order to identify strengths and opportunities to improve current plans, training, and future exercises.