Award Honors Outstanding Public Health Initiatives
MENANDS, N.Y. – October 21, 2011 -- The longstanding affiliation between Health Research Inc. (HRI) and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) facilitated the response to a public health crisis, earning the partners a 2011 Vision Award from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).
ASTHO Vision Awards honor outstanding initiatives that use a creative approach to address public health needs or problems. HRI and DOH were commended for their collaborative and effective management of federal emergency response funds for the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. HRI Executive Director Michael Nazarko accepted the award at ASTHO's annual meeting in Portland, Ore. on October 21st, 2011.
H1N1 influenza emerged in the spring of 2009. Federal emergency response funds were released in July, just weeks before a second wave of the virus was expected to hit. With some urgency, vaccines purchased by the federal government had to get into the hands of health care providers and into the arms of at-risk populations. Vaccine and antiviral distribution was but one aspect of the state's pandemic response requiring DOH's leadership, coordination and prompt action.
Within 24 hours of receipt of federal monies, HRI developed a recruitment plan, executed contracts with mass vaccinators, rented refrigerated trailers to transport the vaccines, and established a 24/7 toll-free call center for public information.
HRI's expertise in accountability and compliance, and deep understanding of public health's mission allowed the Department of Health to focus on core public health activities. DOH staff enhanced influenza surveillance and reporting, provided guidance on infection control, analyzed patient samples to identify possible cases, assessed case reports to manage local outbreaks, considered the need for school closures or other control measures, and continually communicated with health care providers, employers, schools, the public at large and federal officials.
In the end, more than 6 million doses of H1N1 vaccine were distributed to over 3000 health care providers in the 57 counties outside of New York City.
ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the 120,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to assuring excellence in state-based public health practice.