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Capacity building of biodefense informatics for public health preparedness and response in rural regions: EpiInfo, GIS, and data management training

Chiehwen Ed Hsu, PhD, MPH, Francisco Soto Mas, MD, PhD, MPH, Ella T. Nkhoma, MPH, Jerry Miller, PhD, William C. Chambers, MHA

Abstract


Introduction: Emergency informatics such as data management and geographic information systems applications have become an important training agenda for enhancing health surveillance and risk communication in public health emergencies. The free EpiInfo/Epimap software developed by the CDC offering domain knowledge such as health information management may be particularly useful for preparing nonurban jurisdictions often confronting limited resources in dealing with health emergency events. This article describes the delivery of training workshops to enhance the competencies of health workers in biodefense informatics and discusses its implication for delivering education to rural regions.
Methods: Three EpiInfo/EpiMap workshops entitled “Biodefense Informatics and Health Surveillance Database Management” were delivered to public health practitioners of rural Texas. Each workshop covered three modules: tabletop exercises, EpiInfo, and EpiMap hands-on training. A web-based training modality was developed to supplement classroom sessions. Training manuals and a CD-ROM were distributed to trainees. Pretests and posttests were administered to evaluate the workshop effectiveness, and descriptive statistics of the results was summarized.
Results: Forty regional or local health department staff attended the workshops. The pretesting and posttesting indicated that participants enhanced competencies and skills in biodefense informatics and data management. Self-reported evaluation indicated that knowledge increased upon completion of the training. The majority (97 percent) of the participants found the workshops relevant and useful, and many noted that the courses enhance their preparedness efforts.
Discussion: These results support the need of continuing biodefense informatics training for nonurban public health practitioners and provide directions for developing training programs in health preparedness informatics.


Keywords


emergency preparedness and response, biodefense informatics, epidemiology, GIS

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5055/jem.2008.0007

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