Applying behavioral science to workforce challenges in the public health emergency preparedness system


  • O. Lee McCabe, PhD
  • Carlo C. DiClemente, PhD
  • Jonathan M. Links, PhD



transtheoretical model, willingness to respond, willingness to train


When disasters and other broad-scale public health emergencies occur in the United States, they often reveal flaws in the pre-event preparedness of those individuals and agencies charged with responsibility for emergency response and recovery activities. A significant contributor to this problem is the unwillingness of some public health workers to participate in the requisite planning, training, and response activities to ensure quality preparedness.
The thesis of this article is that there are numerous, empirically supported models of behavior change that hold potential for motivating role-appropriate behavior in public health professionals. The models that are highlighted here for consideration and prospective adaptation to the public health emergency preparedness system (PHEPS) are the Transtheoretical Model of Intentional Behavior Change (TTM) and Motivational Interviewing (MI). Core concepts in TTM and MI are described, and specific examples are offered to illustrate the relevance of the frameworks for understanding and ameliorating PHEPS-based workforce problems. Finally, the requisite steps are described to ensure the readiness of organizations to support the implementation of the ideas proposed.

Author Biographies

O. Lee McCabe, PhD

Department of Mental Health, Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Carlo C. DiClemente, PhD

Department of Psychology, UMBC, Catonsville, Maryland.

Jonathan M. Links, PhD

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.


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How to Cite

McCabe, PhD, O. L., C. C. DiClemente, PhD, and J. M. Links, PhD. “Applying Behavioral Science to Workforce Challenges in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness System”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 7, no. 2, Apr. 2012, pp. 155-66, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2012.0091.

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