UAlbany's Center for Public Health Preparedness Leads Fight Against Terror Health Threats
State's public health professionals receive essential epidemiology training, the latest in a series preparing public health workers for worst-case scenarios

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4981; cell (518) 265-4114

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 9, 2003) -- More than 70 public health workers from throughout the state will convene at the University at Albany School of Public Health's year-old Center for Public Health Preparedness to receive basic epidemiology training on communicable disease surveillance and outbreak investigations, including those caused by terrorism. The weeklong course, to begin Jan. 13, is the latest in a series of seminars and workshops designed by the center and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to prepare public health workers to respond to terrorist incidents and other emerging health threats.

School of Public Health faculty member Dr. Robert G. Westphal, formerly the Coordinator for Bioterrorism Preparedness for DOH, is coordinating efforts for the DOH and School of Public Health faculty team that developed the course curriculum. The course announcement sparked such an overwhelming response from health departments throughout the state that the center plans to re-offer it this summer.

"The practice of public health requires an understanding of epidemiology -- the study of health and diseases in populations," said UAlbany School of Public Health Dean Peter J. Levin. "Today's public healthcare workers are dealing with extraordinary situations. The possibility of confronting disease introduced by terror acts is real, and training in epidemiology is important in creating a public health workforce prepared to deal with health catastrophes."

"The faculty for this course from DOH has worked hard to bring into perspective the many aspects of infectious disease control that are critical for dealing with outbreaks, man-made or naturally-occurring," said Dr. Westphal. "The operating principles are the same for all of these threats: surveillance, detection, identification, prevention and treatment are the tools and activities of public health in this regard, to which we need to add thorough and honest public education, without which our efforts risk failure."

The public health school's Center for Public Health Preparedness, the only center affiliated with a state health department, was designated in early 2002 by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. The center's $1 million in funding was part of a $2.9 billion bioterrorism appropriations signed by President Bush in January 2002.

The center works with state and local health departments to help prepare the public health workforce to confront terrorist and other health emergencies. Seminars sponsored by the center and DOH in the past year have included "Communication During Crisis," a national teleconference that examined the media's role in public health disasters; and "Preparing for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Emergencies," a three-day seminar exploring terror and health disaster scenarios. The center is also offering a "Grand Rounds" lecture series this year, commencing with the Jan. 22 "Challenges in the Detection and Identification of Biological Agents," a forum that will examine the newest in biological detection technology.

Other upcoming center initiatives include the development of Web-based training for public health and other professionals who are often on the front lines in public health crises, as well as live, nationwide satellite broadcasts, including the "Third Thursday Breakfast" series for public health professionals, that examine new information and techniques in public health. On Jan. 30, the center's broadcast to health departments across the state will explore the government's proposed smallpox vaccination program.

For more about the Center for Public Health Preparedness and its programs, call (518) 437-4980 or visit http://www.albany.edu/sph/coned/cphp.html .

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges.

For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit http://www.albany.edu.

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