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Open Access Research article

Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Communications with Health Care Providers: A Literature Review

Debra Revere1*, Kailey Nelson2, Hanne Thiede3, Jeffrey Duchin23, Andy Stergachis24 and Janet Baseman12

  • * Corresponding author: Debra Revere drevere@uw.edu

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Communicable Disease Control, Epidemiology & Immunization Section, Public Health-Seattle & King County, Seattle, WA, USA

4 Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:337  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-337

Published: 18 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Health care providers (HCPs) play an important role in public health emergency preparedness and response (PHEPR) so need to be aware of public health threats and emergencies. To inform HCPs, public health issues PHEPR messages that provide guidelines and updates, and facilitate surveillance so HCPs will recognize and control communicable diseases, prevent excess deaths and mitigate suffering. Public health agencies need to know that the PHEPR messages sent to HCPs reach their target audience and are effective and informative. Public health agencies need to know that the PHEPR messages sent to HCPs reach their target audience and are effective and informative. We conducted a literature review to investigate the systems and tools used by public health to generate PHEPR communications to HCPs, and to identify specific characteristics of message delivery mechanisms and formats that may be associated with effective PHEPR communications.

Methods

A systematic review of peer- and non-peer-reviewed literature focused on the following questions: 1) What public health systems exist for communicating PHEPR messages from public health agencies to HCPs? 2) Have these systems been evaluated and, if yes, what criteria were used to evaluate these systems? 3) What have these evaluations discovered about characterizations of the most effective ways for public health agencies to communicate PHEPR messages to HCPs?

Results

We identified 25 systems or tools for communicating PHEPR messages from public health agencies to HCPs. Few articles assessed PHEPR communication systems or messaging methods or outcomes. Only one study compared the effectiveness of the delivery format, device or message itself. We also discovered that the potential is high for HCPs to experience "message overload" given redundancy of PHEPR messaging in multiple formats and/or through different delivery systems.

Conclusions

We found that detailed descriptions of PHEPR messaging from public health to HCPs are scarce in the literature and, even when available are rarely evaluated in any systematic fashion. To meet present-day and future information needs for emergency preparedness, more attention needs to be given to evaluating the effectiveness of these systems in a scientifically rigorous manner.