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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Local public health workers' perceptions toward responding to an influenza pandemic

Ran D Balicer1*, Saad B Omer2, Daniel J Barnett3 and George S Everly3

Author Affiliations

1 Epidemiology Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva, Israel

2 Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

3 Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:99  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-99

Published: 18 April 2006

Abstract

Background

Current national preparedness plans require local health departments to play an integral role in responding to an influenza pandemic, a major public health threat that the World Health Organization has described as "inevitable and possibly imminent". To understand local public health workers' perceptions toward pandemic influenza response, we surveyed 308 employees at three health departments in Maryland from March – July 2005, on factors that may influence their ability and willingness to report to duty in such an event.

Results

The data suggest that nearly half of the local health department workers are likely not to report to duty during a pandemic. The stated likelihood of reporting to duty was significantly greater for clinical (Multivariate OR: 2.5; CI 1.3–4.7) than technical and support staff, and perception of the importance of one's role in the agency's overall response was the single most influential factor associated with willingness to report (Multivariate OR: 9.5; CI 4.6–19.9).

Conclusion

The perceived risk among public health workers was shown to be associated with several factors peripheral to the actual hazard of this event. These risk perception modifiers and the knowledge gaps identified serve as barriers to pandemic influenza response and must be specifically addressed to enable effective local public health response to this significant threat.